Skip to main content

Full text of "Words Ancient And Modern"

See other formats


422 M93W-2 6a-53401 

¥eekley 

Words ancient and modern 




Kansas city 


Kansas city, niissouri 


Books will' be issued only 

on presentation of library card. 

Please report lost cards and 

change of residence promptly. 

Card holders are responsible for 

all books, records, films, pictures 
or other library materials 
checked out on their cards. 


WORDS 

ANCIENT AND MODERN 



Earlier Works by Professor Weekly 


SOMETHING ABOUT WORDS 
WORDS AND NAMES 
ADJECTIVES— AND OTHER WORDS 
THE ROMANCE OF WORDS 
THE ROMANCE OF NAMES 
SURNAMES 
JACK AND JILL 

AN ETYMOLOGICAL DICTIONARY 
OF MODERN ENGLISH 



WORDS 

ANCIENT AND MODERN 


By 

ERNEST WEEKLEY 


Folonm : What do you read, my lord? 
Hamlet : Words, words, words, 

(Hamlet, it, i.) 


LONDON 

JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.i 



First Edition 1946 
Reprinted 1958 
Reprinted 1965 


How many homst words hme suffered 
corruption since Chamefs day! 

(Thomas Middleton} 


Printed in Great Britain by Butler ^ Tanner Ltd,^ Frome and London 


PREFACE 


This is .not a mere reprint or new edition of an earlier work. 
In 1926 I pubiished Words Ancient and Modern, a series of 
short ‘‘biographies” of words that seemed likely to interest 
the intelligent. This was followed the next year by More 
Words Ancient and Modern, which dealt exclusively with 
compounds, a type of word seldom adequately treated by 
dictionaries. Both books have long been out of print. 

The present volume contains a selection from the above 
two works along with a number of articles taken from 
some other books of mine or contributed to the Press and 
to various learned publications, such as the Transactions of 
the Philological Society. Every item has been carefully 
revised, sometimes pruned of irrelevancies, sometimes 
slightly elaborated. As the work has been carried out “in 
exile” and with few books, a nomadic existence and war- 
time taxation having compelled me to dispose of my 
library, I hope that some measure of indulgence may be 
granted to any imperfections. 

The book is divided into three chapters. The first con- 
sists of words of established etymology which seem to me 
by their origin and vicissitudes of a nature to interest the 
word-lover. The second chapter attempts to trace the 
etymology of words which the Oxford Dictionary or the 
latest edition of Webster leave unsolved, explain in- 
adequately or, in my opinion, erroneously. I find that 
many of these proposed etymologies are adopted by the 
new Webster, a most admirable piece of work. The editors 
may have arrived at the same results independently, but 
there is some suggestion of acknowledgement in the fact that 
my name appears in the list of celebrities which forms an 
appendix to the dictionary, along with Aristotle, Julius 

V 



PREFACE 


Caesar, Shakespeare, and others of less importance! The 
third chapter is reprinted from my Words and Names. It 
may save some guileless souls from being deluded by the 
nonsense which periodically gets into print about the most 
famous, and one of the most obvious, of English names. 

Perhaps an octogenarian may be allowed a personal 
reminiscence. Quite sixty-five years ago, the reading of 
Scott convinced me that word-hunting is great fun, and at 
eighty I still hold that opinion. In three respects I may 
claim some slight originality for my method of research. I 
have made much more use than other etymologists of the 
early Latin-English and other dictionaries, from the 15th 
century onward, being of opinion that the first essential is 
not to know what a word means now, but what it meant for 
those who first used it. This point is well illustrated by such 
words as caulk and foil,. Having a more or less bowing 
acquaintance with various European languages, I have 
given special attention to “semantic” parallels; see, for 
instance, akimbo and dapple-grey, I have shown repeatedly 
that the study of medieval surnames, i.e, nicknames, often 
takes a word back many centuries before literary records, 
and sometimes supplies a clue to its origin. An example is 
cheesemonger, which I have made the text for a rather 
rambling discourse on word-lore. 

I hope that this volume, though a mere compilation from 
earlier work, may give some pleasure to the very small 
public which is interested in a branch of knowledge 
recommended by Archbishop Ussher to John Evelyn as 
“above all human studies!” 

Ernest Weekley. 

Criccieth. 

June^ 1946 . 


VI 



CONTENTS 


Chapter 1 . LIVES OF WORDS . . . p. i 

agnos.tic, p. i; aspen-leaf, p. 2; battels, p. 3; beefeater, p. 5; 
blackmail, p. 9 ; blue-stocking, p. 1 1 ; bonfire, p. 13; bourgeois, p. 14; 
carfax, p. 17; cheesemonger, p. 18; clodhopper, p. 20; close- 
quarters, p, 22; cocksure, p. 23; democracy, p. 25; dicker, p. 27; 
disease, p. 28; dock, p. 30; fellow, p. 31; folk-lore, p. 33; foxglove, 
p. 35; gazetteer, p. 37; gossamer, p. 38; gossoon, p. 40; grass- 
widow, p. 41; gun, p. 44; harlequin, p. 46; henchman, p. 48; 
homesick, p. 50; honeymoon, p. 53; husbandman, p. 54; ironside, 
p. 56; jumper, p. 60; kaiser, p. 62; kidnap, p. 64; lion-himter, p. 66; 
magazine, p. 67; monitor, p. 69; nightmare, p. 70; pagan, p. 735 
pall-mall, p. 76; philistine, p. 78; pikestaff, p. 80; pipe, p. 82; 
punch, p. 85; raid, p. 86; rigmarole, p. 88; robot, p. 91 ; runagate, 
p. 93; slogan, p. 95; soviet, p. 97; spick-and-span, p. 98; stor(e)y, 
p. 100; stun, p. 101; turnpike, p. 103; uproar, p. 105; wanton, 
p. 106; wassail, p. 108; weird, p. in; werwolf, p. 113; wiseacre, 
p. 1 16; yeoman, p. 1 18; yon, p. 120. 

Chapter 11 . ESSAYS IN ETYMOLOGY . p. 123 

akimbo, p. 123; anlace, p. 125; bloody, p. 129; burgee, p. 132; 
buskin, p. 133; caulk, p. 134; codlin, p. 136; cozen, p. 137; cross- 
patch, p. 139; cuff, p. 142; dapple-grey, p. 143; demure, p. 145; 
descry, p. 147; felon, p. 149; foil, p. 150; gallipot, p. 151; hap- 
hazard, p. 153; high-flown, p. 154; howlet, p. 156; jackanapes, 
p. 158; jolly-boat, p. 161 ; kestrel, p. 164; legerdemain, p. 165; 
merry grig, p. 166; monkey, p. 167; mop, p. 168; mulligrubs, p. 170; 
oriel, p. 1 71; palmistry, p. 174; pearmain, p. 176; petronel, 178; 
pilgrim, p. 180; plot, p. 182; ringleader, p. 185; rummage, p. 188; 
sallet (salade), p. 191; sentry, p. 192; tenter-hooks, p. 194; tret, p. 
197; trounce, p* 198; trudge, p. 201, 

Chapter III. SHAKESPEARE AND WAGSTAFFE p. 204 


vii 



AUTHOR^S NOTE 

The text of this reprint remains almost unchanged. Dr. 
Onions has thrown doubt on Huxley’s ‘‘Athenian” inspira- 
tion for agnostic and a reader has taken me to task for failing 
to distinguish a whitlow {felon) from an agnail. I can only 
plead, like a more famous lexicographer, “Ignorance, 
madam, pure ignorance”. 

Putney Ernest Weekley. 

EARLY DICTIONARIES MOST FREQjQENTLY 
QUOTED 

Minsheu, Guide into Tongues (1617). 

Phillip>s, New World of Words (1678). 

Johnson, Dictionary of the English Language (3rd ed,, 

1765)- 

Cooper, Latin-English (1573). 

Holyoak, Latin-English (1612). 

Littleton, Latin-English (1677). 

Palsgrave, French-Ertglish (1530). 

Gotgrave, French-English (1611). 

Florio, Italian-English (1598), 

Torriano, Italian-English (1659). 

Percyvall, Spanish-English {1591). 

Minsheu, Spanish-English (1599). 

Kilian, Dutch-Latin (1620). 

Ludwig, Gcrman-English (1706, 1716). 

viii 



Chapter I 

LIVES OF WORDS 


Agnostic 

I AM not sure of the name of the “literary man” who 
derived agnostic from Lat. agnoscere, to acknowledge. The 
late W. P. Ker once told me that it was * * but a cursory 
inspection of * ♦ * works has not led to the discovery 
of the passage in question. 

In the middle of the 19th century much hostility was 
aroused in pious circles by the “atheistical” teachings of 
those biologists who expressed doubts as to the literal 
exactitude of the first chapter of Genesis. The great name 
on the scientific side in the struggle between old-fashioned 
theology and the evolution theory was that of Thomas 
Henry Huxley, who was not only a great biologist, but a 
distinguished prose-writer. As Dr. Julian Huxley once 
wrote, “It is sometimes as well in these easier-going and 
theologically more tolerant days to remember what power 
of inertia, what violence of the odium theologicum^ there was 
in the opposition. ‘Professor Huxley’ became a sort of 
bogy in orthodox lower middle-class families, almost as 
‘Boney’ had done for the nation in earlier days” (Observer, 
May 3, 1925). 

Few people like the name atheist, offensive when applied 
to another, and only assumed as a title by the bounder. 
Unbeliever is almost as bad: one might as well be called 
miscreant^ at once. Huxley wanted an inoffensive word to 
express the attitude of mind represented by Montaigne’s 
“Qpc sgais-je?” He thought of the altar which St. Paul 
(Acts xvii. 23) saw at Athens “to the Unknown God,” 
' Old Fr. mesmant, present participle of meserme, to disbelieve. 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

’Ayvwcrra) ©€c5, and coined agnostic from the Greek word 
(= unknowing, unknown, unknowable), by analogy with 
gnostic, a name given to Early Christian heretical sects 
which claimed transcendental knowledge and power of 
mystic interpretation. The word was suggested by Huxley 
at a gathering held in 1869 at the house of Sir James 
Knowles, founder of the Metaphysical Society and of the 
Nineteenth Century. The name was at once adopted by 
friend and foe. 

Aspen-leaf 

It is doubtful whether, outside poetry, people ever 
‘‘tremble like an aspen-leaf” nowadays. The more prosaic 
jelly is the accepted contemporary symbol. Anyone who 
has watched a fine specimen of populas tremula on a still 
night will easily understand how it must have appealed to 
our country-dwelling ancestors as an emblem of perpetual 
motion. Danish has the corresponding expression “skjaelvc 
som et aspeiov,” and Ludwig renders Ger. “Er zittert wie 
ein ^penlaub”^ by ‘‘he trembles like an aspen-leaf; he 
shakes like a wet cat; he trembles or quakes for fear.” 
French, having given the name tremble to the tree itself, is 
reduced to saying “trembler comme une feuille.” 

The association is now always with fear, but in earlier 
times the aspen 4 eaf symbolical of any quivering move- 
ment. Sh^espeare uses it in the generally accepted sense 
when he makes the Hostess, who “cannot abide swag- 
gerers,” shake “an’t were an aspen-leaf” (2 Henry IV, ii, 4) ; 
but in the only other passage in which it occurs, the simile 
is of quite another kind: 

Oh ! had the monster seen those lily hands 

Tremble like aspen-leaves upon a lute 

And make the silken strings delight to kiss them, 

He would not then have touched them for his life. 

(Titus Andronicus, ii, 5.) 

^ The name of the tree is now spelt espei it is also called .dtterpappel, 
tremble-poplar. 

2 



BATTELS 


In the 1 6th centtury the female tongue was likened to an 
aspen 4 eaf. The Oxford Dictionary quotes from Sir Thomas 
More, ‘Tf they (women) myghte be suffred to begin ones 
in the congregacioii to fal in disputing, those aspen-leaves 
of theirs would never leave waggyng.’’ ^ At a much earlier 
date it was even possible to “quake like an aspen-leaf” 
with anger. At the conclusion of the Friar’s Tale, in which 
a Summoner plays a very unedifying part: 

This Somonour in his styropcs hye stood. 

Upon this Frere his hertc was so wood,® 

That lyk an aspen-leef he quook for ire. 

(Chaucer, D. 1665.) 

The name aspen^ now given to the tree, for aspyis due to the 
frequent occurrence of aspen 4 eqfy in which the first element 
is either the Anglo-Saxon genitive, as in aspan-rindy asp- 
bark, or else an adjectival formation of the same type as 
oakeUy beecheriy etc. Both asp and ups^ arc still used in dialect, 
and Richard Jefferies tells us that woodmen always say aspy 
not aspen. 

We have something like it in lindeUy the popularity of 
which in suburban villa nomenclature started in the early 
19th century with the fashionable enthusiasm for German 
poetry and its inevitable lindenbaum or lime-tree. The 
German name for the tree is lindcy the dative plural of which 
is familiar in the Berlin street-name “Unter den Linden.” 
The Anglo-Saxon was lindy surviving in Lyndhurst and 
other place-names, but this has not been current English 
for centuries. 

Battels 

The older universities and the public schools are conserva- 
tive institutions. It is archaeologically, as well as physically, 

^ Gf. I Cor. xiv. 34. 

® Mad, enraged. This obsolete word is one origin of the surname 
Wood. 

® Gf. waps for wasp. Aps is the origin of the surname Apps, 


3 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

pleasant to be refreshed on a hot evening with a '‘stoup’® of 
ale fetched from the “buttery.” Battels is applied at Oxford 
to all expenses beyond tutor’s fees. At Eton it was used in 
the 1 8th century of extras in the way of “tuck.” At Win- 
chester battlings are a special allowance of a shilling a week, 
a survival of an old grant given for providing food on fast- 
days. The exact original sense of the Oxford battels is a 
matter of dispute, but it seems likely that the following 
definition is about correct: ^^battil: to grow fat or lusty; 
whence most properly to battle in the University of Oxford 
is taken for to run on to exceedings above the ordinary 
stint (= allowance) of the appointed commons” (Phillips). 

Battel or battle is a corruption of batten^ a word which per- 
haps owes its survival in the speech of the fervent reformer to 
the fact that it rhymes with fatten. It is especially used of 
those who invest their savings,, more picturesquely des- 
cribed by Mr. Kirkwood, M.P., as “the parasites who fatten 
on the toil of the worker like slugs on a cabbage.” This 
quotation, if correctly reported, is interesting as being per- 
haps the first recorded example of a Socialist orator reject- 
ing batten in favour of its more commonplace rhyme. 

The origin of batten is Old Norse baina, to improve, get 
“better,” from the root bat^ of which our better is a compara- 
tive. In English both batten and battle were used chiefly of 
feeding plentifully (transitive or intransitive), and especially 
applied to cattle : 

Battening our flocks with the &csh dews of night. 

(Lycidas, 1. 29.) 

A parallel to the sense and formation is Dan. gjode^ to 
fatten cattle, from god^ good. The application to people is 
well exemplified by Cotgrave, who has file hien 
advenue: well proved, well growne, well come on, well 
prospered; well batned, or batled.” 

In the sense of “tuck,” the Oxford Dictionary has as early 
examples only Anglo-Latin quotations dating from 1557. 

4 



A mucli earlier instance, from the Memorials of Fountains 
Abbey,^ seems to show that the word was not originally 
restricted to university use. One day in 1447 Thomas 
Swynton, the monk who attended to most of the outside 
affairs of the Abbey, paid a business visit to Ripon, and 
there felt the need of reasonable liquid refreshment to the 
extent of 2|d. Consequently we find in his account-book, 
‘Tn batell apud Ripon vidz in vino, iid. ob.’® 

Beefeater 

Just now newspapers are tempting the capricious appetite 
of the jaded cross-word solver with a new diversion entitled 
you know?” or *^Can you say?” The questions set 
cover the whole range of human knowledge, and the 
appended answers contain much that is impressive. It is 
inevitable that ‘‘etymology” should enter into these 
popular questionnaires y and that many etymological ghosts, 
insecurely laid, should once more squeak and gibber in the 
Press. Our old friend cabal has naturally turned up with 
Clifford, Ashley and Co. forming his spectral train, nor is 
one surprised to find once more the pronouncement that 
beefeater h “a corruption of the French word buffetier^ server 
at the buffetJ' 

This myth dates from about the end of the i8th century. 
Archdeacon Todd, re-editing Johnson's Dictionary in 1818, 
printed the following fantasy: “Mr. Steevens* derives it 
thus: ^Beefeater may come from buffetiery^ one who attends 
at the sideboard, which was anciently placed in a heaufet,^ 
The business of the beefeaters was, and perhaps is still, to 

^ Vol. 3, Surtees Society (1918). 

* George Steevens (1736-1800), commentator on Shakespeaie. 

® When Steevens wrote, no French word buffetier was known. It has 
since been discovered in Old French, but it meant a dealer in wine and 
vinegar, also apparently in one case a tub-washer. 

^ This English perversion of buffet was used in the i8th century for a 
china-cupboard. 


5 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

attend the King at meals. This derivation is corroborated 
by the circumstance of the beefeaters having a hasp sus- 
pended to their belts for the reception of keys.” Elizabeth 
Penrose, the author of Mrs. Markham’s History of England 
(1823), the sale of which was prodigious, is responsible for 
the wide diffusion of this fiction: “Mrs. M. : ‘You have also 
seen how the men were dressed. Don’t you remember the 
beefeaters you saw in London? They wear the same kind 
of dress that was worn by Henry the Eighth’s beefeaters.^ 
Mary: ^Beefeaters, mamma! I never heard such a comical 
name.’ Mrs. M. : ‘It is a strange corruption of a very plain 
word, buffetier,2i ^trsonwh.o waits at a buffet, pv sideboard.’ ” 

Not only Richard, George and little Mary, who, “though 
she was very young, seated herself on a footstool at Mrs. 
Markham’s feet and listened with great attention,” but even 
scholars like Trench and Max Muller eagerly swallowed 
this apparition, “hasp” and all, and Steevens’s wild guess 
joined the company of those popular fictions usually des- 
cribed as “well-known facts.” At first there were some 
doubters. The eminent medievalist. Sir Francis Palgrave, 
reflecting that the beefeaters were not table attendants, but 
archers,^ later halberdiers, was moved to put forward a rival 
etymology. A type of halberd called in French a langue-de- 
bceuf i.e* ox-tongue, in allusion to the shape of its blade, was 
introduced into Mid. English as longe-de-bef Palgrave in- 
geniously (or ingenuously) suggested that “As from halbert 
and musket are derived halberteer and musketeer, so longe- 
de-befeteer would be formed from longe-de-bef and might 
afterwards be abbreviated into befeteerJ^ Thus was word- 
history written by the learned in 1836. 

Beefeater, incredible as it may appear, means “eater of 
beef”; cf. Ger. ^^bratenfresser: a great beef-eater” (Ludwig). 
In the 1 6th century the compound had two special mean- 
ings: (i) a burly Englishman, as compared with less fav- 

^ Archer: an archer, or bowman; also a yeoman of the (king’s) gard” 
(Cotgrave), 

6 



BEEFEATER 


cured races, (2) a pampered menial. The Yeoman of the 
Guard was both. “Poudre-beefi lubber,*” for an over-fed 
manservant, occurs in Ghaloner’s translation of The 
Praise of Folly (1549). “Powder-beef slave” is in the old 
play. Wily Beguiled (1606). In Marston’s Histriomastix 
(printed in 1610) the hero thus apostrophizes his “impud- 
ent, audatious serving-men” : 

Begone yee greedy beef-eaters; y’are best: 

The Callis cormorants from- Dover roade 

Are not so chargeable as you to feed. 

As a nickname for the Yeomen of the Guard and the 
Tower warders beefeater is well attested in the 1 7th century. 
The association appears in the following flippancy® of that 
period : 

That Thou wilt be pleased to look on the grief 
Of the King’s old servants and send them relief, 

Restore to the Yeomen o* the Guard chines of beef; 

Te rogamus audi nos ! 

Miege, in his French-English Dictionary (1688), tells us: 
“C’est ainsi qu’on appelle par derision les Yeomen of the 
Gard dans la Gour d’Angleterre, qui sont des gardes a peu 
pres comme les cent Suisses en France. Et on leur donne ce 
nom-la, parce qu’a la Gour ils ne vivent que de boeuf, par 
opposition a ces colleges d’Angleterre, ou les ecoliers ne 
mangent que du mouton.” Bailey (1736) has beefeaters: a 
nickname given the Yeomen of the Guard, because their 
commons is beef, when on waiting,” The Queen of the 
Blue-stockings (see p. ii) writes (1745), ‘T can eat more 
buttered roll in a morning than a great girl at a boarding- 
school, and more beef at dinner than a Yeoman of the 
Guards.” 

^ Powder(cd)-beef was salt beef, a stock article of diet in the days 
when the butcher did not call regularly. 

2 Lubber was once used of a household drudge. Hence Milton’s 
lubber-fiend, i.e. Lob-lie-by-the-fire (Allegro, 1. no). 

* Quoted in Notes and Qjieries. 


7 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

We need not perhaps attach great importance to the 
special rations attributed to the Yeomen of the Guards 
Beef has always been symbolical of a generous diet produc- 
ing the ‘'^bluffKing Hal*' type of physique. There is even a 
legend of an Efigiish general who rallied his wavering 
troops with the burning words, “Are you Englishmen, who 
eat beef, going to be licked by a lot of damned foreigners^ 
who live on oranges?” 

Beefeater^ serving-man, is a variation on a much earlier 
name reflecting the original conception of domestic service 
as a state in which satisfaction of the elementary needs is 
assured. Henry II, in his traditional outburst against 
Becket, spoke of his knights as “the cowards who eat my 
bread.” In the Laws of King Etheibert, Anglo-Sax. 
hldJ(Bta^ loaf-eater, is used of a household servant, one who 
eats his master’s bread. The master himself was the 
hldjord, for hldf-weard^ loaf-ward, and the mistress was the 
hlafdige, loaf-kneader, the second element being cognate 
with dough. These gave us lord and lady and the Scottish 
laird and leddy. The history of these two ancient titles, and 
of the ups and downs they have experienced, is fascinating, 
but too long to be included here. It is, however, interesting 
to note that, as a correlative to lady^ lord is now, except in 
one specific sense or when preceded by supplanted by 
gentleman. 

Lordly is a very old word. It has always connoted maj- 
esty, often with a tinge of arrogance, and occasionally 
something worse; cf. “drunk as a lord.” Oddly used by 
Coverdale on the occasion when Jael brought out the best 
china (Judges v. 25), it has been retained by the Author- 
ized and Revised Versions. This “lordly dish” represents 
the phiala principum of the Vulgate. Ladylike^ on the other 
hand, is comparatively modem, and, so far as the Oxford 
Dictionary’s records go, has always been associated with a 
gentle dignity. But the word is somewhat older than those 
records, and once had a sense more intimately connected 
8 



BLACKMAIL 


with that of lordly. Cooper explains Ovid^s conjunx im- 
periosa as ladylike wife that will bee obeyed.*’ 

Blackmail 

An interested foreigner, trying to glean from the daily 
Press some idea of England, its people, polity and pur- 
suits,’’ might be excused for coming to the conclusion that 
one of the chief interests of the more leisured class is Maok- 
mails active or passive.^ The word and the thing are now 
so common, that it is difficult to realize that the practice, at 
any rate in its most efficient form, is essentially a contem- 
porary feature of social progress. The Oxford Dictionary’s 
first quotation for blackmail in a sense approaching that now 
current is from Macaulay’s essay on Clive. The Dictionary’s 
definition, formulated in 1888, runs, *^any payment extorted 
by intimidation or pressure, or levied by unprincipled 
officials, critics, journalists, etc., upon those whom they 
have it in their power to help or injure.” If this definition 
were to be rewritten in the light of the latest research, I 
imagine that the ‘‘officials, critics and journalists” would 
take second place, and the “etc.” would come into their 
own. The scale of the science has also been so intelligently 
enlarged that the trifling baksheesh with which the 19th- 
century blackmailer was satisfied would hardly pay the 
postal expenses of a modern operator. 

So far as the Oxford Dictionary records go, it would seem 
that the practice of extorting money by the threat of damag- 
ing publicity was first developed in the United States. At 
any rate, the earliest quotation for the word blackmailer is 
from the New York Herald (1868). English travellers in 
the past have mostly used it in reference to the tribute 
levied by Arab sheikhs and other Eastern potentates for 
permission to pass through their territory unharmed. 

^‘This article appeared in the Observer at a time when two amazing 
blackmail cases filled the greater part of the daily papers. 


B 


9 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

There is a very considerable gap between the contem-" 
porary applications of the word and its earliest use as a re- 
spectable legal term. Like so much of our administrative 
vocabulary, mail is a Viking word. It is found in various 
forms in all the Teutonic languages (Old Norse mdl, Anglo- 
Sax. methel^ Old High Ger. mahal^ Goth, mathl)^ with the 
general idea of meeting, speech, agreement, contract, etc.^ 
and is copiously recorded in English, from the i ith century 
onward, in the sense of payment, tax, rent. But it has 
always been especially a North Country word, preseirving 
its proper sense only in Scotland, where a rent-paying 
tenant is still in some districts a mailer. 

There are also compounds descriptive of the type of ten- 
ancy, such as grass-mail and land-mail^ or of the method of 
payment, such as silver-mail and black-mail. We do not 
know the original meaning of the latter. Camden conjec- 
tured that the black referred to copper coin, and the fact 
that we find white-rent used as equivalent to silver-mail lends 
some plausibility to this view. But the accepted legal sense 
of black-mail was, according to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘Tent 
reserved in labour, produce, etc., as distinguished from 
white-rents, which were reserved in white money, or silver.’*^ 

Such dues usually come to be regarded as oppressive and 
extortionate, and the forbidding adjective black would not 
help to make the word popular. So it w:as adopted, no 
doubt by the victims, as the name for the tribute exacted 
from farmers and landholders by the' freebooters of the 
Border and the Highland chiefs neighbouring on the Low- 
lands. The system was, compared with modern black- 
mailing, quite straight business. The bandit undertook, in 
consideration of an annual contributioij, to guarantee the 
contributor against the exactions of all other bandits. If 
he failed to do so, he felt as humiliated as the Arab chief 
who allows travellers who have paid him for safe-conduct to 
be massacred by marauders trespassing on his territory. In 
other words, there was a quid pro quo, and the blackmailer did 
lO 



BLUE-STOGKING 


not adopt towards his public the heads I win, tails you 
lose’* policy of a modern trust or trade union. 

The contemporary currency of the word remains a pro- 
blem. As a Highland industry blackmail died out after the 
Forty-five, and in England much earlier. Rose Bradwar- 
dine informed Edward Waveriey that not the boldest High- 
land cateran would ‘‘steal a hoof from anyone that pays 
blackmail to Vich Ian Vohr,” and, in reply to his puzzled 
“And what is blackmail ?’* gave him the classic definition of 
the term: “a sort of protection-money that Low-country 
gentlemen and heritors, lying near the Highlands, pay to some 
Highland chief, that he may neither do them harm himself, 
nor suffer it to be done to them by others” (Waveriey, ch. 
15). But Scott, writing in 1829, found it necessary to add 
one of his historical Notes on the subject. It is quite pro- 
bable that the revival of this archaic word was due, like 
that of so many others, to the popularity of the Waveriey 
Novels. 

Blue"Stocking 

There seems to be some natural connection between 
learned ladies and blueness, for it was in the famous 
“Ghambre bleue” of the Hotel de Rambouillet that 
Catherine de Vivonne, the “Queen of the Friciexises^'^ initi- 
ated, soon after 1600, that civilizing campaign which was 
repeated in London a century and a half later by Elizabeth 
Montagu, the “Queen of the Blue-stockings.” The term was 
soon adopted in French as has bleu and in German as blau- 
strumpf. From German it passed into Danish as hlaastrdmpe^ 
In all these languages, as in English, it is depreciatory, and 

^ I append, pour mAnoire, the following note, translated from Falk and 
Torp’s Norwegisch-Danisches Etymologisches Worterbuch, which 
differs altogether from the usually accepted view; *‘From a learned 
society of both sexes, originally founded at Venice imder the name della 
colza (== of the hose); it came in 1590 to Paris, in 1780 to England; in 
Germany thc*word appears at the end of the 17th century.” I do not 
know on what evidence this series of statements rests. 

11 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 
tends, with the attainment of sexual equality, to fall into 
disuse. 

There is pretty general agreement as to the description 
having first been applied to Benjamin Stillingfleet, a fre- 
quenter of Mrs. Montagu’s circle, who had discarded the 
black silk of fashion for the blue worsted of a blameless life. 
There is an early allusion to these garments in one of Mrs. 
Montagu’s letters (1757). 

A nickname of this kind is seldom given without some 
subsidiary reason. The Black and *Tans^ who assisted the 
Royal Irish Constabulary after World War I, were so called 
from wearing khaki coats and black caps, but they would 
never have received the popular nickname if there had not 
already existed, in the neighbourhood of Limerick, a famous 
hunt called the Black and Xan. So also blackguard^ tradi- 
tionally from the “kitchen squad” of a great man’s house- 
hold, e.g. “A lousy slave, that within this twenty years rode 
with the black guard in the Duke’s carriage, ’mongst spits 
and dripping-pans” (Webster, The White Devil), appar- 
ently contains an allusion to some military corps as to which 
history is silent. In 1578 a woman was murdered in Lon- 
don by the black guards in connection with which murder 
“certain soldiers” were executed. Stanyhurst, in his amaz- 
ing translation of the Aeneid (1582), has “Thee blackgarde 
marching dooth wurck, in path way, ther harvest” to render 
Virgil’s description of the ants : 

In nigrum campis agmen, praedamque per lierbas 
Gonvectant calle angusto. 

(Aeneid, iv, 404.) 

Similarly the blue stockings of Mr. Benjamin Stillingfleet 
would hardly have struck the popular fancy so much, if 
bluestocking had not at an earlier date been contemptuously 
associated with mean and puritan^ garb. It is curious that 

^ Blue was also the traditional colour of the serving-man*s livery 
(Taming of the Shrew, iv, i) ; hence perhaps also applied to other 
dependents; cf. bluegoum, almsman, Bluecoat School^ charity school. 


12 



BONFIRE 


Ger. blaustrumpf also, before its readoption from English, 
had a contemptuous sense. In the 17th and i8th centuries 
it was applied, as still in dialect, to an informer or calumnia- 
tor, from the blue stockings formerly worn by the lower 
officers of the law. hbllische blaustrumpf^^ is a name 

given by Schiller to Satan (Die Rauber, ii, 3). We may 
compare the London slang bluebottle^ policeman (Fobsoletc), 
which has good Shakespearean authority (2 Henry IV, v. 
4 ). 

Bonfire 

It may be doubted whether there was ever a worse 
etymologist than Dr. Johnson. He was a good classic, but 
completely ignorant of the earlier history of the Teutonic 
languages. So he derived ache (Anglo-Sax. acan) from 
Gr. a^os and thus permanently distorted its spelling 
(for ake ) . Anthem (Anglo-Sax. antefn^ from Greco-Lat. anti^ 
phona), he connected with Gr. av^v/xvos, affirming that it 
“should therefore be written anthymn.^^ 

For Johnson gives an etymology from Fr. bouy good, 
and fire. This he no doubt took from the Etymologicon 
(1671) of Stephen Skinner, which was his chief authority 
for derivations. In Skinner we read '^bone-fire: ignis festus, 
q.d. bonus, vel bene ominatus, ignis, Fr. un honfeu,''^ It 
may be that the festive sense of bonfire (cf. Yx,feu dejoicy Ger. 
freudenfeuer) has been affected by association with ban and 
bonus, but the older form of bonfire was bone-fire or banefire, 
explained by the Gatholicon Anglicum (1483) as ignis 
ossium. 

The form bonefire survived into the i8th century. The 
practice probably goes back to heathen^ times, and is especi- 
ally associated with Midsummer Eve (cf. Ger. Joharmisfeuer ) : 

^Thc earliest authorities regard the bone-Jire as a device against 
dragons: “Adversus haec (sc. animalia) ergo hujusmodi inventum cst 
remedium, ut videlicet rogus ex ossibus constmerctur et ita fumus 
hujusmodi animalia fugaret’* (Belithus, in Vigil. S. Joan.). 


13 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

“For the annual midsummer banejire or bonfire in the burgh 
of Hawickj old bones were regularly collected and stored 
up, down to c. 1 800” (Oxford Dictionary) . This must have 
been due to the strength of tradition, for bones do not burn 
particularly well. In Old French we find feu os, Hex- 
ham’s Dutch Dictionary (1660) has bone-fire: een been- 
vier, dat is, als men victorie brandt,” apparently alluding 
to the practice of burning the dead on the won field : 

Now will the Christian miscreants ^ be glad. 

Ringing with joy their superstitious bells 
And making bonfires for my overthrow. 

But, ere I die, those foul idolaters 

Shall make me bonfires with their filthy bones. 

(Marlowe, i Tamburlaine the Great, iii, 3). 

In 16th-century English bonfire was regularly used to 
render Lat. pyra and rogus. Where Virgil, describing the 
death of Dido, has “altos conscendit furibunda rogos” 
(Aeneid, iv, 645), Stanyhurst (1582) translates “Madlye she 
scaleth thee top of her banefyers,^* Sir Thomas Browne 
describes cremation as a “sepuichrall bonefireJ' With the 
religious persecutions of the Reformation period bonfire 
assumed a special sense, and was often alliteratively con- 
nected with the name of Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London 
(t ^5^9)* With Gunpowder Plot (1605) the bonfire became 
what it is now, i.e. a blaze emblematical of commemora- 
tion, jollification and immolation combined. 

Bourgeois 

Mr. Stanley Baldwin (later Earl Baldwin), when Prime 
Minister, once caused some amusement in the House by 
commenting on the current use, in some circles, of the word 
bourgeois as an invective term. He suggested that its choice 
might be due to that predilection which democracy some- 
times shows for abusive terms beginning with 

^ See p. 1, n, X. 


14 



BOURGEOIS 


So far as I have observed, the depreciatory sense of 
bourgeois obtains in only three classes, which may roughly be 
said to inhabit the Beau-monde, Bohemia and Bolshevia, 
i.e. the regions in which hard work is regarded with least 
enthusiasm. To these classes a bourgeois is, according to the 
exact point of view, a sinister or a comic figure. To the 
Beau-monde he is a person of inferior manfiers, to the 
Bohemian a narrow-minded philistine, to the Bolshevist an 
embryo capitalist. I have never heard a working-man, as 
distinct from a “Labour man,^’ use the word. 

There is, however, nothing sinister or comic about the 
Bourgeois de Calais, immortalized in history, literature and 
art, nor were the “burgesses’* of London, champions of civic 
rights and foxmders of the British Empire, always figures of 
fun. When Corneille wishes to paint the dignity of a citizen 
of Rome, he makes Nicom^de say: 

Ne savez-vous plus qu*il n’est princes ni rois 

Qu’elle daigne ^galer h, ses moindres bourgeois? 

When, in the latter part of the 17th century, the French 
nobility abdicated its position and forsook its duties in order 
to dance attendance at the royal court, it naturally began to 
conceive a contempt for all that was plain, simple and hon- 
est. So the word bourgeois, which suggested these qualities, 
fell on evil days. In Les Femmes Savantes, the idiot Belise, 
who, if she had lived now, would be dividing her time be- 
tween the Beau-monde, Bohemia and diluted Bolshevism, 
doubts whether there can be “un esprit compos6 d’atomes 
plus bourgeois” than her plain-spoken brother Chrysale. By 
the time of the Revolution the word had so completely lost 
caste that it had no chance at all against the synonymous 
citoyen, when it became a question of selecting a name to 
replace that of “sujet du roi.” Logically, the unhappy fate 
of bourgeois, the verbal victim of the “idle rich,” should 
have excited the sympathy of the Republicans rather than 
their derision. 


25 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

The next chapter in the history of the word was written 
by the young French writers and artists of the early 19th 
century, whose chief object in life was to ‘^epater le bour- 
geois,” i.e. to bewilder or shock the plain middle-class man, 
a pastime which is not without attraction for the young 
writers and artists of the 20th century. Bohemia does not 
hate the Beau-monde — in fact, it sometimes feels flattered 
at being asked to appear in gilded halls — but it is merciless 
to the bourgeois^ a being unworthy even, according to one of 
Copp6e’s old Bohemians, of the guillotine, and who, in the 
next revolution, is to be put to death by means of *la 
machine a coups de pied dans le derriere.” 

The third and latest misuse of the word bourgeois belongs, 
if I may use a current imbecility, to the “class-conscious” 
vocabulary which advanced “Labour” has recently bor- 
rowed from Moscow, and which Moscow had borrowed, 
along proletariat^'^ from French Communism. And this 
reminds me that I have never heard a working-man utter 
the word proletariat It is not many years since I heard 
from an elderly labourer, in altercation with a better- 
dressed opponent, the withering remark, “You’re no 
Englishman; you’re only some damned sort of a foreigner.” 
This crude, narrow-minded mentality somehow pleases me 
better than the borrowing of misunderstood foreign terms 
with which to assail one’s fellow-countrymen. 

The first word that the Roman soldiers picked up from 
the Teutons was burg, used in the sense of castrum, and later 
applied to the fortified town of which a castle was often the 
nucleus. It is very common in English {borough^ burgh, 
bury), German {burg), and Dutch {burg). The Roman sol- 
diers took it to Gaul as bourg, and the earliest bourgeois were 
the sturdy class that threw off the yoke of villeinage and set 
up fortified cities secure from feudal tyranny. 

^ “ ‘The wot?’ exclaimed his father. ‘The proletariat.* ‘Wot*s 
that?* ‘You know. The workin* class.’ ‘Well, why the *cll can’t you 
say workin’ class?* ** (St, John G. Ervine, Alice and a Family.) 

16 



CARFAX 


Carfax 

The adjective trivial is from Lat. ^Hrivialis: common^ used 
or taught in high wayes, of no estimation” (Cooper), from 
trivium^ the point of meeting of three ways, also * 'where 
common recourse of people is” (ibid.). It has probably 
also been affected by a contemptuous attitude towards the 
trivium, the medieval three-way curriculum, viz. grammar, 
logic and rhetoric. 

Latin also had quadrivium^ the point of meeting of four 
ways, or what we should now commonly understand by the 
cross-roads. It is quite a shock to find how recent is the 
latter compound. The Oxford Dictionary has no record 
earlier than 1812, so that apparently, in medieval times, 
some other term must have been used in connection with 
"dirty work” or the burial of suicides: 

A dozen men sat on his corpse. 

To find out why he died, 

And they buried Ben in four cross-roads, 

With a stake in his inside. 

(Hood, Faithless Nellie Gray.) 

This is more easily understood, if we remember that the 
sense we attach to road is no older than Shakespeare (see 
p. 87). Much earlier than cross-roads is cross-way^ the lurk- 
ing-place of footpads and ghosts: 

Yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger. 

At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and there. 

Troop home to churchyards, damned spirits all, 

That in cross-ways and floods have burial. 

(Midsummer Night’s Dream, iii, 2.) 

Of equal antiquity with cross-way was carfour, borrowed 
from Fr. carrefour, which represents a Vulgar Lat. quadri- 
furcum, four-fork, substituted for the classical quadrivium. 
This was in general use up to the i8th century, the Oxford 
Dictionary’s last record being "A sort of carfour at Chancery 
Lane end,” from North’s Examen (1734). More common 
was the plural form carfoukes^ representing the Old Fr. 
carrefourcs. The London "carfuks del ledenhalle” is men- 

^7 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

tioned in the Liber Albus (1357). At one time in general 
use, it gradually became obsolete. At present, so far as I 
know, the word is preserved only at Oxford, Exeter and 
Horsham.^ Already by the 17th century it was especially 
associated with the university town: carfax in Oxford: 
quadriviurrC ® (Littleton) . 

Cheesemonger 

In determining the approximate date of a word’s £rst 
appearance dictionaries use chiefly literary sources. Our 
early vernacular literature consists largely of poetry, drama 
and chronicle. The cheesemonger is not essentially poetic or 
dramatic, and it happens that no representative of the 
calling has ever headed a rebellion. Hence it is not surpris- 
ing that the Oxford Dictionary’s first record of the word 
dates from the i6th century. But to the authorities the 
cheesemonger was a tax-paying unit, and an examination of 
early Pipe Rolls reveals the name of Baldwin le Chese- 
mangere as early as 1 185-6, so that one may infer the very 
probable existence of the compound in Anglo-Saxon, 
which borrowed both cheese and monger from Latin. 

Rome taught Europe not only the arts of war and peace, 
but also the tricks of trade. Lat. rmrcaius^ market (from 
merx^ merely merchandise), was adopted by all the Teutonic 
languages, though our English form probably came rather 
late and via Old French. Merchant, earlier marchant, was 
borrowed from French during the early Mid. English 
period, but long before this two colloquial Latin names for a 
dealer had been acquired by the Teutonic languages. 

The first is mango, not at all a nice word. Cooper defines 
it as ‘^a baude that paynteth and pampereth up boyes, 
women or servauntes to make them seeme the trimmer, 
thereby to sell them the deerer; an horse coarser ^ that 

^ But the late J. S. Fletcher, the novelist, once told me that there is a 
carfax in ids native Yorkshire village, the name of which I have forgotten. 

* Hme-courser, dealer in horses, now replaced by horse-coper^ the second 
dement of which is from Dutch koopen, to buy. 

18 



CHEESEMONGER 


pampreth and trimmeth his horses for the same purpose.” 
Provided with the Teutonic agential suffix -cn, it gave 
Angio-Sax. mangere^ a merchant, now monger. Where 
Wyclif writes, “eftsones the kyngdam of hevenes is lie to a 
man marchaunt, seekyng good margarytis,” the Anglo- 
Saxon translation has ‘"eft is heofena rice gelic tham 
mangere, the sohte thaet gode meregrot” (Matt. xiii. 45). 

Trade-names in -monger are rather numerous, and it is 
odd that they have not made a larger contribution to our 
surname list. The only one at all common is Iremonger or 
Ironmonger^ well represented all over England. A partial 
explanation may be that this name represents two trades, 
viz. ironmonger^ earlier also isen-manger^ whence the variants 
IcemongeTy Isemonger, and eyren-manger, egg ^-merchant. 

At the Renaissance -monger fell into disrepute. It had 
already been used in the 13th century to form a compound 
expressing the most unpleasant sense of Lat. mango. In the 
1 6th century it became definitely contemptuous, and since 
then it has been constantly used in the manufacture of new 
and disparaging epithets. One of the earliest of these is 
massmonger, an offensive description of a Roman Catholic. 
Shakespeare probably coined newsmonger. Prince Hal 
speaks of “smiling pick-thanks ^ and base newsmongers” 
( I Henry IV, hi, 2) . The historian of the future, consulting 
the newspaper files of the past, will be interested to find 
scaremonger applied to Lord Roberts before World War I, 
and warmonger to Mr. Winston Churchill before World War 
II. The humble compiler of this volume was once des- 
cribed by a London daily as “the most entertaining of 
living wordmongers.” 

^ Egg is an Old Norse word which has supplanted the native ey, 

® One who curries favour, a tale-bearer. Pick- is a favourite dement 
in disparaging compounds of this type, e.g. pickpennyt miser, was a 
medieval nickname, pkkpurse is in Chaucer, pichhamess, stripper of the 
slain, is in Piers Plowman. Picklock, burglar, and pickpocket are both 
booked for the early i6th century, and are probably much older in 
colloquial use. 

19 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

The other Latin word is ^^caupo: a hucster, a taverner^ a 
victualer, an innekeper” (Cooper), also an undesirable 
character, according to Horace, who describes him as 
perfidus. This word was much more successful than manga. 
The latter is now widely represented in English only, while 
caupo is regarded as the foundation-stone of the whole 
Teutonic commercial vocabulary. In Anglo-Saxon we find 
ceap, trade, price, whence Mid. Eng. good cheap (cf. Fr. bon 
marchi), now shortened to cheap; ceapmon, dealer, whence our 
common surname Chapman and our colloquial chap; ceapstow^ 
market-place, now Chepstow; and ceaping, whence our 
numerous Chippings: “And he, gon out about the thridde 
hour, saw other stondynge ydil in the chepyng” (Wyclif, 
Matt. XX. 3). Other related words are chaffer (p. 161, n. i) 
and chop^ in “to chop and change” and “to chop logic,” both 
now misunderstood. The verb (cf. Ger. kaujeuy Dutch 
kooperi) is in all the Teutonic languages, with numerous 
derivatives, and has even penetrated into Slavonic. 

It is curious that neither mango nor caupo has any descend- 
ants in the Romance languages. They appear to have been 
what Dr. Johnson calls “very low” words, more familiar to 
the soldier than to the citizen, but of a form more easily 
picked up by the Teuton savages than longer and more 
polite descriptions. Old High Ger. choufo^ now elaborated 
into kaufmann^ was probably adopted not later than the 2nd 
century a.d. It may be conjectured that both caupo and 
mango were used in the Imperial armies somewhat in the 
sense of sutler, camp-follower. 

Clodhopper 

“The common ploughman,” said Adam Smith (1776), 
the “father of political economy,” “though generally re- 
garded as a pattern of stupidity and ignorance, is seldom 
defective in his judgment and discretion.” “Since I have 
worked with farm-labourers,” said Sir Ian Hamilton (192 7), 
20 



CLODHOPPER 


‘‘I take off my hat to them every day. They are the only 
folk in this country who could make both ends meet on a 
desert island.” It is characteristic of human stupidity that 
the one “skilled man” who is really indispensable is an 
object of contempt to the little street-bred people. 

If a man has a grudging, surly disposition, we call him 
churlish^ from churl^ peasant, which is Anglo-Sax. a free 
man of the lowest class. If his manners are bad we call 
him boorish. Although {ge)bur^ properly a dweller in a 
“ bower,” is Anglo-Saxon and survives in neighbour (from 
nigh)^ there is a gap in its English history. After the Con- 
quest it gave way to the Norman term villein^ and the word 
was probably reintroduced in the 15th or i6th century 
from the cognate Dutch boer^ still used, in the form bor^ by an 
East Anglian like Ham Peggotty as a friendly mode of 
address. In early use boor was almost exclusively applied to 
Dutchmen and Germans. On May 19th, 1660, Pepys saw, 
in a “little drinking house” not far from The Hague, “many 
Dutch boors eating of fish in a boorish manner,” no doubt a 
horrid sight. 

If a man is awkward and unpolished, we describe him as 
clownish^ from a word which originally simply meant rustic. 
Clown is of obscure origin, but certainly cognate with a 
number of words in the other Teutonic languages all mean- 
ing something like lump, clod. The pantomime clown is a 
blend of the comic countryman with one of the stock 
characters of Italian comedy. 

Since the i6th century the countiyman has been called a 
clod^"^ along with the elaborations clodpate and clodpoll. The 
1 7th centuiy’^ ® seems to have originated clodhopper ^ later 

^ Gf. the similar use of the cognate Gcr. klotz, 

^To the same century belong the similar formations moss-trooper. 
Border bandit, and bog-trotter, "wild” Irishman. Moss-troopers are des- 
cribed in Blount’s Law Dictionary (1691) as “a rebellious sort of male- 
factors in the north of England, that live by robbery and rapine; not 
unEke the Tories of Ireland, the Buccaneers in Jamaica, or Bandid in 
Italy.” 


2 ! 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

supplied with the pleasing alternative chawbacon. The still 
earlier bumpkin^ of uncertain etymology/ is shown by the 
diminutive suffix to be probably of Dutch origin. 

All these native names for the most useful member of the 
community are surpassed in opprobriousness by villain. 
The Fr. vilain was, as the name implies, originally a serf 
attached to a ville,^ i.e. the villa or country estate of one of 
the ‘‘upper classes.’’ Old French literature is full of stories 
illustrating the churlishness, boorishness and clownishness, 
in fact the villainy, of the vilain^ Cotgrave, in his Diction- 
ary, finds room for a dozen proverbs supporting the same 
thesis, and his definition of the word itself is one of his 
choicest efforts: vilain: a villaine, slave, bondman, servile 
tenant; hence also, a churle, carle, boore, clowne: and, a 
miser, micher, pinchpennie, penny-father; and, a knave, 
rascal!, varlet, fiithie fellow; any base-humored, ill-bomc 
and worse-bred hinde, culHon, or clusterfist.” 

Close-quarters 

From Lat. claudere^ claus-^ to shut. Old French inherited a 
verb dors, of which some fragments still survive. Its past 
participle dos became our dose, which still means shut, 
closed, in “close season,” “close-fisted” (opposite of “open- 
handed”), etc. In late Mid. English it developed the sense 
of near, apparently via that of having all intervening spaces 
shut or closed. The military to “close up” is an illustration 
of the same idea. Similarly to “close with” (an enemy or an 
offer) is to obliterate a gap, literal or theoretical. The con- 
tact of the two notions also appears in the fact that both 
doss and near are used in the sense of stingy. In Shake- 
speare’s use of dose the original sense of “shutness” is much 
more fully exemplified than the derived sense of proximity. 

1 It is probably from Dutch ioom, tree, log. 

2 For the sense-development cf. oiir word town, originally an enclosiure, 
a homestead. 

® Cf. the French adjective mlatn, ugly. 



COCKSURE 


In modem English the latter sense is much the more fre- 
quent, and this fact is responsible for our altered and, 
strictly speaking, erroneous use of close-quarters. 

Elizabethan sea-fights were carried on at very short range 
and usually ended in an attack by boarders. For defence 
against such an attack ships were provided with close-fights^ 
defined (1627) by Captain John Smith as “small I'edges of 
wood laid crosse one another like the grates of iron in a 
prisons window, betwixt the maine mast and the fore mast, 
and are called gratings.” In this nautical “pill-box” the 
last stand was made. The close-fights^ or simply fights^ were 
only put up when an engagement was imminent : 

Clap on more sails; pursue, up with your fights; 

Give fiire; she is my prize, or ocean whelm them all! 

(Merry Wives, ii, 2.) 

In the 1 8th century close-fights were called ^‘close-quarters: 
cloisons fortes 6tablies en travers d’un vaisseau, pour servir 
de retranchement et de defense en cas d’abordage” (Les- 
callier, 1777). These cloisons or bulkheads,^ were loop- 
holed for small-arm fire: “They are used as a place of re- 
treat, when a ship is boarded by his adversary” (Falconer, 

1771)- 

The point is ‘that in close-quarters the adjective originally 
meant shut, barricaded, whereas in the modern “at close 
quarters^^ we give it the secondary sense of near, with a 
mistaken implication as to its real signification. 

Cocksure 

The bird which the Americans, and some very delicate- 
minded English people, call a “rooster” has a reputation for 
sprightly arrogance, otherwise “cockiness.” It is probable 
that the sense we now give to cocksure has been afifected by 

^ Fr. cUison is from Lat. claum-n- ; cf. Mson itmche, watertight 
bulkhead. 

2 The bulk of bulkhead is Old Norse balkr^ beam. 


23 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

this association. Few Englishmen have been more ^'cocky'® 
than Macaulay, of whom Lord Melbourne is reported to 
have said, '‘I wish I was as cocksure of anything as Tom 
Macaulay is cocksure of everything.’^ The association is 
unjustified, for, while cocky (or cocksy^ coxy) is no older than 
the 1 8th century and has always been slangy and contemp- 
tuous, cocksure dates back almost to the Wars of the Roses, 
and was originally a dignified word, referring not to the 
subjective consciousness of being right or knowing better 
than other people, but to the objective fact of security, 
trustworthiness, etc. The cocksure man of the i6th century 
was not dogmatically assertive; he was armoured against 
fate: “Whoso dwelleth under that secret thing, and help of 
the Lord, is cocksure for evermore” (Foxe). 

If we trace the word back through the dictionaries, we 
find in Ash (1775) "'cocksure: (used in droll style) confident, 
having no doubt”; in Johnson (1755) “confidently certain; 
without fear or diffidence (a word of contempt)” ; in Bailey 
(1736) “very sure”; in Mi^ge (1688) “qui est asseure de son 
fait.” Hence we may infer that the current meaning of 
cocksure dates from about the middle of the i8th century. 
It may have been affected by the obsolete cockish^ arrogant, 
which dropped out of use at about the same period. 

Shakespeare uses cocksure only once, when he makes 
Gadshili say, “We steal as in a castle, cocksure. We have 
the receipt of fernseed,^ we walk invisible” (i Henry IV, 
ii, i). Although this occurs in humorous dialogue, the 
sense is merely “in full security.” Where Venus tells 
Aeneas — 

Tibi reduces socios classcmque relatam 
Nuntio, et in tutum versis Aquilonibus actam 

(Aeneid, i, 390) 

Stanyhurst (1582) translates: “Thou seest al cocksure, thy 
flete, thy coompanie salved.” The evidence of the Latin- 
^ Fcmseed was once supposed to be invisible and to confer the power 
of invisibility, 

24 



DEMOCRACY 


English Dictionaries, from the i yth century onward, shows 
that cocksure was equivalent to securus, tutus. 

As it seems impossible to connect the compound with any 
sense of the monosyllabie cock^^ a bird (fig. a tap, from its 
shape), a heap of hay, a small boat, I venture to put for- 
ward, but only as 'a timid conjecture, the theory that cock 
may be here an old substitute for God. Laws against blas- 
phemy combined with natural reverence to eliminate the 
sacred name from fantastic oaths. The Frenchman sub- 
stitutes par bleu for pat Dieu. German has many strange 
compounds beginning with Fotz-y an arbitrary perversion of 
Gottes. Ludwig gives various specimens of these “comical 
oathes” with such English renderings as “Gemini! ^ 
bodikins! boblikins! udds-niggers ! uddsbuddikins 1 gudds- 
bob! by cox-nouns! by cox-bones !’’ Several of these can 
be paralleled from Shakespeare, who also makes Petruchio 
swear “by Gog’s wouns” (Taming of the Shrew, iii, 2). 
The substitution of cock for God is as old as Chaucer: 

See how he nappethl see how, for cokkes \var. goddcs] 
bones! 

As he wol falle fro his hors atones. (H. 9.) 

Democracy 

It was on April 2, 1917, that the late President Wilson 
issued his decree that “the world must be made safe for 
democracy.” This having, presumably, been accomplished, 
it may be of interest to trace the history of the word and the 
related demagogue. 

Gr. 817/4.0?, cognate with a Sanskrit root meaning 
divide, was originally the territory of a community. At 
Athens it was applied to a division of the tribe, and it was at 
Athens that people-rule, came into existence: 

^ The three main senses represent three quite distinct and unrelated 
words. 

® This is a perversion of jemiip, jindny, which is also a minced oath; 
like Ger. jemnet it is supposed to be for Jesu Domine. American Gee! 
zvMz! belongs to the same class of euphemism. 

C 


25 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


Thence to the famous orators repair. 

Those ancient whose resistless eloquence 
Wielded at will that fierce democraty. 

(Paradise Regained, iv, 268.) 

There is naturally little trace of the word, or of demagogue^ 
in the Middle Ages. In fact, almost the only record of 
them before the Renaissance is in Nicole Oresme, a 14th- 
century French theologian and translator of Aristotle. It 
was not until the French Revolution that democracy ceased to 
be a mere literary word and became part of the political 
vocabulary, Wilkes suggested that mobocracy was a better 
description of the Revolutionary Government. Byron, in 
his Diary (1821), defined democracy as “an aristocracy of 
blackguards.” With these views we may compare Daniel 
Webster’s “people’s government, made for the people, made 
by the people, and answerable to the people” (1830), and 
Lincoln’s famous speech at Gettysburg (1863), in which he 
declared that “government of the people, for the people, 
shall not perish from the earth.” If we correct this enthu- 
siasm with Dean Inge’s remark that “there is a great deal 
to be said for democracy, but to worship it is a provincial- 
ism and quite out-of-date,” the subject may be regarded 
as exhausted. 

Unlike SrjfxoKparta^ which merely meant popular 
government, the related ST/ftaywyos was usually con- 
temptuous and had in Greek the sense of mob-leader. 
Oresme has ^'demagoges: gens qui par adulacion et flaterie 
meinent les populaires a leur volenti,” but it was not till 
1 762 that the French Academy admitted dimagogue^ though 
Bossuet, in his Histoire des Variations des figlises Protes- 
tantes (1688), had written, “Je voudrais qu’il me fut permis 
d’employer le terme de ‘demagogues’ ; e’etait dans Athdnes 
et dans les fitats populaires de la Grece certains orateurs qui 
se rendaient tout puissants sur la populace en la flattant.” 

I have included this word because of the uncertainty of 
the date of its appearance in English. The first Oxford 
26 



DICKER 


Dictionary record is from Eikon Basiiike ( 1 648) . Milton, in 
Eikonoklastes (1649), treats it as a ‘‘goblin word/’ and ob- 
serves that “the King by his leave cannot coine English 
as he could money.” This would seem to show' that dema-^ 
gogue was unknown in English before the publication of 
Eikon Basiiike. But Gilbert Cousin, at one time Erasmus’s 
secretary, in connection with some “adagia” which he added 
to those of Erasmus (ed. of 1574), writes, “Angli dicunt 
‘demagog.’ Est enim, si verbum de verbo reddas, populum 
trahere.” If Cousin got this information from Erasmus, 
who spent many years in England, it would show that 
demagogue was in use early in the 1 6th century. 

Dicker 

In a book published in 1917, Mrs. Gertrude Atherton, 
the American novelist, made a character say that, as a result 
of the holocaust of youth demanded by the War, “husbands 
will be too scarce to dicker about,” meaning that young 
women will have to take what they can get, without hag- 
gling. I first heard the word from a leather-merchant of 
philological tastes, who asked me why a bundle of ten skins 
was called a dicker. 

This simple trade-word takes us back to the days of 
Imperial Rome, when skins and furs were one of the chief 
objects of barter between Roman and barbarian. More- 
over, in some cases tribute was paid in the same form, e.g. 
by the Frisians (Tacitus, Annals, iv, 72). The Latin name 
for a set of ten, decuria^ from decern^ ten, is used in the sense of 
ten hides in a letter written by the Emperor Valerian, and, 
in various corrupted forms, it became the recognized unit of 
the trade in skins.^ As an everyday word wherever Roman 
and northerner came in contact, it passed into ail the Teu- 
tonic languages; cf. Ger. decker: a dicker of leather, ten 

1 A kind of parallel is furnished by makuia, the West African name for 
the “Angola penny.” It originally meant bundle and was applied to a 
package of ten palm-fibre mats used as a xinit of currency. 


27 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

hides’’ (Ludwig) and Dan. deger. In Domesday Book it is 
used, in a barbarous Med. Latin form, for ten bars of 
iron, but the general association in English, as in Dutch, 
German and Scandinavian, is with hides, and in this 
sense it is still current among those who have to do with 
leather. 

The sense of haggling, bartering, swopping, developed in 
the United States. In Fenimore Cooper’s Oak Openings 
or the Bee-hunter (1848) we read that ‘The white men who 
penetrated to the semi-wilds were always ready to dicker 
and swap,” and, as these white men were mostly trappers 
and hunters in quest of pelts, it seems a reasonable inference 
that their use of the word reflected the fur-trade with the 
Indians. If so, it is a curious example of the continuity of 
word-history, that a term first used by the Roman in his 
mercantile dealings with the barbarian should, after twenty 
centuries, have started a new existence at the meeting-place 
of the settler and the savage in another hemisphere. 

Disease 

Our mental reaction to the sound of a word has little to 
do with its musical quality or its etymological meaning. 
It is almost entirely a question of association. There is 
hardly a more repellent word in English than disease, though 
it has no more intrinsic horror in it than discomfort, which 
has become weakened just as disease has become streng- 
thened : “The abhomynacioun of discomfort that is said of 
Danyel the prophete” (Wyclif, Matt. xxiv. 15). 

The history of disease illustrates the inevitable fate of the 
euphemism, its gradual acquisition of a sense more unplea- 
sant than that of the older term which it was intended to 
avoid. When we wish to describe what is nasty or dirty, we 
forsake these old words, once much stronger than now, and 
try to express our feelings more fully with disgusting and 
unsavoury, mere euphemisms which mean no more than dis- 
tasteful. The extreme of human depravity is expressed in 
28 



disease 

infamous^ and any number of the most desolating epithets 
can be coined by the use of that amazing un- which v/e can 
prefix to nearly every adjective in the language: have 

our profound and powerful particle in our undone^ unloved^ 
unforgiven^ the that summons in order that it may 
banish, and keeps the living word present to hear sentence 
and deniaP’ (Alice Meynell). 

To return to the word disease^ the Anglo-Saxon was un- 
affectedly and unashamedly sick. Early Mid. English bor- 
rowed from Old Norse the word with the general sense 
of evil which it still has in ‘411 weeds grow apace/’ “it’s an 
ill wind that blows no one good,” etc. In the 15th century 
this began to compete with sick^ though it is not used in the 
Bible in this sense, and in Shakespeare is usually semi- 
adverbial (^‘to look ill,” etc.). As the older sick came to 
denote one particular symptom of bodily discomfort, it was 
gradually expelled from the polite vocabulary in the general, 
sense of bad health, except in the literary style, in the United 
States, and in such compounds as sick-list. When a word 
expressive of mere indisposition was needed, disease 
paturaliy presented itself. 

It is an old word in English, having been borrowed 
c. 1300 from Old Fr. desaise^ and, as late as the i6th century, 
it was still used in its etymological sense: “Thy doughter is 
deed : why deseasest thou the master eny further” (Tyndale, 
Mark v, 35). Where we should now speak of being a little 
indisposed or unwell, Wriothesley, in his Chronicle (i553)j 
speaks of Edward VI as “a little diseased from catching 
cold.” But, before the century was out, disease was being 
used of dangerous maladies, and in 1602 Shakespeare 
wrote : 

Diseases desperate grown, 

By desperate appiiance are relieved. 

(Hamlet, iv, 3.) 

So the 1 8th century, in search of a word to describe a 
state of health for which diseased had become, by associa- 
te 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

tion, too strong, introduced unwell^ already long familiar in 
Scotland and Ireland. It appears that it was Lord Chester- 
field who gave polite currency to the new euphemism, so 
gracefully used in our own times by Private Mulvaney: 

‘Let me out, bhoys,’ sez I, backin’ in among thim. T’m 
goin’ to be onwelF ” (With the Main-Guard). 

Dock 

This word is found in many European languages, but is 
usually thought to have originated in England. The earli- 
est record in the Oxford Dictionary is (1513) from Gavin 
Douglas’s translation of the Aeneid: “Lat every barge do 
prent hyr self a dok,” where Virgil has — 

Inimicam findite rostris 

Hanc terrain sulcumque sibi premat ipsa carina.^ 

(Aeneid, x, 295.) 

Here dok corresponds to the Lat. sulcus ^ furrow. This was 
the original meaning of the word. Cf. Captain John 
Smith’s account (1626): “A wet docke is any place where 
you may hale in a ship into the oze out of the tides way, 
where shee may docke her selfe.” The word was also used 
of the hollow made on a shoal or mudbank by a ship that 
had accidentally grounded. Phineas Pett, constructor to 
the Navy temp. James I, describing such a mishap, writes 
(1613), “We caused an anchor to be laid right astern as 
her dock directed us.” 

It would appear then that dock may be identical with 
dialect Eng. doke, hollow, furrow, and Norw. dokk^ hollow. 
But there is also an archaic Low Ger. docke^ runnel, gutter, 
so it is possible that our word originated in one of the 
German ports of the North Sea or the Baltic. At any rate 
it was known to the German Hanse merchants as early as 
1436. It is also much older in English than the Oxford 
Dictionary records. A volume of Naval Accounts and In- 
^ Cleave this hostile land with your prows and let the keel press for 
itself a furrow. 

30 



FELLOW 


ventories (1495-7)5 published by the Navy Records 
Society^ contains much information about the royal dock 
constructed at Portsmouth by Henry VI I, perhaps the first 
dock in the current sense of the word. According to the 
editor of the volume, dock is found in 1434 applied to the 
bed made in the mud by a vessel when beached. This 
hollow was fenced round while repairs were in progress, so 
that the modern dock is a costly and permanent structure 
replacing a much more primitive contrivance. 

This familiar linguistic process, viz. the change in the 
connotation of a word as the object or action indicated be- 
comes more elaborate, is also illustrated by graving dock^ for 
earlier graving beach. To grave is to clean away all accretions 
from a ship’s bottom as she lies ashore or in dry dock. It is 
derived from archaic Fr. grave ^ beach, now usually greve. In 
French such a process was called wuvres de maree^ lit. tide 
works, because hurriedly carried out as the vessel lay high 
and dry between tides. 

Another early name for graving was breaming. This was 
done by singeing the ship’s bottom with burning furze, 
broom, etc., and the word is derived from Dutch brem, 
broom. In the same way It. bruscare, to bream, is derived 
from brusca^ broom, heather. 

Fellow 

There is a legend of an ardent democrat, who, proclaim- 
ing from the platform that ‘‘one man is as good as another,” 
elicited from his audience, along with an approving cheer, 
the enthusiastic addition, “Yus, and better too.” This 
legend contains a great psychological truth. In very 
stressful times Chamfort’s ironical democratic formula, 
“Sois mon fr^re, ou je te tue,” may enforce a temporary 
external recognition of equality and fraternity, if not of 
liberty, but the innate snobbishness of man remains 
unchanged. 

On that tragic occasion when Mr. Pickwick and Mr. 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

Tupman nearly came to blows, the final exasperation of 
both was aroused by the epithet fellow. Even the genial 
Sam Weller became bellicose when “a indiwidual in com- 
pany” called him a “feller.” If the difference of spelling 
means anything, we may conclude that Messrs. Pickwick 
and Tupman used the pedantic pronunciation now taught 
at school, while Sam Weller still spoke the educated English 
of the 1 8th century: 

W^orth makes the man and want of it the fellow. 

The rest is all but leather or prunella. 

(Pope.) 

It was by the operation of that familiarity v/hich breeds 
contempt that a word originally indicating equality and 
mutual helpfulness acquired for a time the sense of inferior. 
Fellow is Old Norse felage^ from felag^ partnership, made up 
from fee^ in its original sense of wealth, cattle, and the root 
of the verb to lay. In early use it implied friendly associa- 
tion, like that good old word mate^ now replaced in Socialist 
jargon by the absurd comrade. 

The contemptuous use of fellow arose in the Middle Ages 
from the practice of addressing servants in this kindly 
fashion, just as Frenchmen of the old school use mon ami to 
their social inferiors. The accompanying touch of condes- 
cension gradually came to carry an offensive implication, 
and, by the time of Shakespeare and the Authorized Ver- 
sion, fellow, especially when used alone, was generally 
scornful. It might almost be said that it became two words, 
one preserving the original sense, which survives in the 
“goodly fellowship of the prophets,” fellow feeling, Robin 
Goodfellow, schoolfellow, “hail fellow well met,” the other used 
vaguely for “chap,” with an undertone of condescension or 
contempt. 

Something of the same kind happened to companion, lit. 
bread-sharer, messmate, which has now recovered its dig- 
nity. “Scurvy companion” was a stock term of abuse from 
Shakespeare to Smollett. In fact, fellow and companion 
32 



FOLKLORE 


formed for many centuries one of those pairs of words, one 
native the other French, so numerous in our language. A 
'‘good fellow®’ was a “boon companion” (Fr. bon compa-- 
gmri)^ and either word could be used to express one of a pair. 

The Authorized Version uses fellow and companion in- 
differently (e.g. Judges xi. 37, 38), and, in the New Testa- 
ment, such compounds as fellow-citizen^ -heir^ ^helpety 
etc., are numerous. Here fellow represents the Greek 
prefix OW-, together, e.g. o-wSouXos, fellow-servant 
(Matt, xviii. 28). Where fellow is used contemptuously by 
itself, there is as a rule no corresponding noun in the Greek 
or the Vulgate. The Greek for “this fellow” is simply 
o^os, while the Vulgate reads, “Hie non ejicit daemones 
nisi in Beelzebub principe daemoniorum” (Matt. xii. 24). 
The Revised Version substitutes “this man,” while most 
Continental translations follow the original in using simply 
a demonstrative pronoun. 

Folklore 

From the Conquest up to about a.d. 1400 a considerable 
proportion of our population was bilingual, speaking both 
English and French. The final blending was accomplished 
in two different ways. Usually the English and French 
words survived side by side, often with some differentiation 
in use, if not in actual sense, e.g. board and table, stool and 
chair. Johnson still has ^Uabler: one who boards.” Less 
frequently one or the other language prevailed, e.g. of our 
two most essential tradesmen the baker is pure English, the 
butcher is pure French. Folk and people ^ (Fr. peuple) have 
existed side by side for many centuries, the latter word 
having passed from the French-speaking part of the popu- 
lation to the English-speaking c. 1300. Folk has now be- 
come rather colloquial, and is often wrongly used in the 
plural, as in “the old folks,” a usage chiefly American. It 

^ German has stuck to volki using p6b€l only for the rabble. 


33 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

survives also historically in such compounds as folk^moot^ a 
general diSstmhlY:>folk 4 and^ originally common land. 

In recent times many new compounds of folk-- have come 
into existence. The i6th century began to develop an 
interest in the past life of the nation. The first antiquary 
was John Leland, officially appointed antiquary to Henry 
VIII in 1533. The archaeological interest of the i6th and 
17th centuries was mostly confined to the doings and 
records of the great, though the craze for the pastoral 
exemplified by Sidney and others involved some rather 
artificial contact with the people.” It was not till the 
1 8th century that antiquarianism took a really popular 
turn. Landmarks in this movement are Bourne’s Anti- 
tuitates Vulgares or the Antiquities of the Common People 
(1725), Percy’s Reliques of Ancient Poetry (1763), Brand’s 
Observations on Popular Antiquities (an elaboration of 
Bourne, 1777), and Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes of the 
English People (1801). In all these there is no question of 
the word folk. 

Herder, the great reviver of Jb/A:«literature in Germany, 
who was a keen student of Percy, found no German equi- 
valent for the latter’s “popular song.” So he coined, in his 
essay on Ossian und die Lieder alter Volker (1773), the 
compound volkslied. His own great collection of specimens 
(1773-9) was entitled Volkslieder, for which a later editor 
of his works substituted the more pretentious Stimmen der 
Volker in Liedern. On the model of volkslied a number of 
similar compounds have been created, such as volksetymolo- 
gie^ popular etymology, i.e. the distortion of an unfamiliar 
%vord to make it look more familiar, e.g. runagate for 
renegade (p. 93). 

The early 1 9th century was keenly interested in Germany, 
and it was possibly as a result of German influence that 
W. J. Thoms, the founder of our invaluable Notes and 
Queries, suggested, in the Athenaeum (Aug. 522 , 1846), that 
“what we in England designate as ‘popular antiquities’ 
34 



FOXGLOVE 


might be most aptly described by a good Saxon compoundj 
‘folk-lore/ the lore of the people.” This excellent coinage 
at once found favour, and has even been adopted in French. 
It has given birth to a whole family of folk-words^ such as 
folk-song, folk-speech, folk-tale, folk-dancing, and is now ren- 
dered in German by volkskunde. There has thus been a 
good deal of give and take between English and German in 
this matter. 

Earlier than Thoms’s folklore, an enthusiastic Anglo- 
Saxonist had suggested (Gentleman’s Magazine, June, 
1830) bird-lore, star-lore, etc., as substitutes for the Greek 
ornithology, astronomy, etc. Some of these are occasion- 
ally used, and this humble volume might be described as 
dealing with ‘word-lore.’ Ger. -lehre is often employed 
in similar compounds. 

Lore is Anglo-Sax. Idr^ teaching, doctrine: “Tha se 
H^lend thas word ge-endode, tha wundrode thaet folc 
his lare” (Matt. vii. 28). From it was formed the verb 
Idran, to teach. Lered,^ taught {doctus), was the regular 
Mid. English name for a literate, as lewd^ was for an 
illiterate : 

For be he lewed man, or cllis lered, 

He noot (= wots not) how soone that he sbal been afercd. 

(Chaucer, C. 283.) 

We have replaced lered by learned, a solecism of the same 
type as the minatory “I’ll learn you to behave yourself.” 

Foxglove 

“Plant out sweet williams, foxgloves and Canterbury 
bells. The foxgloves will do well in partial shade and will 
grow the taller there. The name is really ‘folk’s’ — that is, 
fairy’s — ^glove, from the shape of the flowers” (Daily News, 
Gardening Note). This “folk’s-glove” is to be classed with 

1 Cf. Ger. gelehrt, learned. 

® Probably derived in some mystcriotis way from Lat. laicus. 


35 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

the hardy perennials, or, better still, with the everlastings, 
for nothing seems able to kill it. It belongs to that age in 
word-study when everything had to be explained as a 
‘^corruption” of something else, when country-dance was de- 
rived from Fr. contredanse ^ and the name Shakespeare was 
solemnly interpreted as coming from Jacques Pierre, 

Most of the European races seem to have seen in the 
flower a resemblance to a thimble or finger-stall, the Latin 
for which is digitate. Accordingly the German botanist 
Fuchs (immortalized by iht fuchsia) gave the foxglove (1542) 
the botanical name digitalis. In French it is digitate, with 
which cf. It. digitello and Sp. dedalera (from dedal, thimble) ; 
but the popular French name is ^^gantelie: the hearbe called 
fox-gloves” (Gotgrave). The scientific name was suggested 
to Fuchs by the Gev.fingerhut, thimble, foxglove (lit. finger- 
hat), with which cf. Dutch vingerhoed, with the same two 
senses. The flower is in some English dialects called 
thimble, a name also applied both to the sea-campion and 
the harebell. The appropriateness of the name is evident. 
Another expressive dialect name for the foxglove is “bloody 
fingers” or “bloody man’s fingers.” 

Early English folklore, however, usually associated the 
flower with the animal which is pre-eminent in legend and 
fable. A parallel to our foxglove is offered by Norw, 
revbjdlla, fox-bell, in which rev, or rav, means fox. The Ox- 
ford Dictionary also quotes a Norwegian form revbjelde. 
But this parallel is not necessary, for the Anglo-Saxon and 
Mid. English records are quite conclusive as to the original 
form and meaning of the compound. In the Leechdoms 
(c. 1000) we hxkd foxes glofa, the second word being appar- 
ently plural (our word is often listed bs foxgloves in early 
dictionaries). Foxesglove occurs twice in a vocabulary of 
plant-names written down c. 1265, and in a botanical 

^ The opposite is the case. Fr. contredanse was borrowed from English 
c. 1700. The English compoiind is as old as Spenser: ^^heydegtdes: a 
countrey daunce or round” (Glossary to Shepherd’s Calendar, June) . 

36 



GAZETTEER 


treatise ^ of tlie 14th centuiy foxglove is glossed by cerokca 
vulpiSy the first word being for chirotheca, glove, from Gr. 

hand, OrjKT)/ case, while vulpis is the genitive of 
Lat. vuipes, fox. So if fox is here a “corruption’’ of/ottV, it 
must have been corrupted at a very tender age I 

G-azetteer 

There are a few books without which a house is inade- 
quately furnished. One of these is a good gazetteer. The 
history of the word starts at Venice, which had a copper 
coin of very small value called a gazzetta. It was at Venice 
also, about the middle of the i6th century, that the first 
gazz^tte wtre published, those small, ill-printed news-sheets 
from which the modern daily Press has been evolved. 
Florio has ^‘gazzette: running reports, daily newes, idle in- 
telligences, or flim-flam tales that are daily written from 
Italic, namely (= especially) from Rome and Venice.” 

There is also a Venetian gazzetta, dim. oigazZd^ a magpie. 
The relationship of the three seems to be that the coin was 
named from the bird, and that the news-sheet was either 
sold, or, more probably, allowed to be read, for and in con- 
sideration of the payment of one gazzetta. There is no un- 
likelihood in the theory of the bird becoming a coin. In slang 
English a halfpenny is a mag, and the rap that we don’t care 
(an Irish counterfeit halfpenny of the early i8th century) 
apparently took its name from a German hzA pfennig, bearing 
an unsuccessful eagle, which was derisively called a rabe,^ 
i.e. raven. Another theory is that the news-sheet was 
called a magpie from its chatter. 

However that may be, the word gazette reached England 
c. 1600 in the sense of news-sheet, and soon became one of 

^ The Sinonima Bartholomei, ed. Mowat (Oxf. 1882). 

® Introduced early into English this gave us (bed)-ijV-t. 

* Rap represents the Upper German form rappe, now used only of a 
black horse. The word was probably brought from, Germany by Irish 
soldiers of fortune. Happen is still used in Switzerland of a small coin. 

37 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

the regular names for the periodic Press. In 1665 appeared 
the first official journal published in England, now known 
as the London Gazette. A young officer is “gazetted,” 
when the announcement of his appointment appears in the 
Gazette, while a business man “in the Gazette” is a bank- 
rupt. The first number of this periodical was called the 
Oiidbrd Gazette, because it was published there in Novem- 
ber, 1665, Charles II and his court having fied from the 
Plague. Pepys (Nov. 22, 1665) notes that “this day the first 
of the Oxford gazettes came out, which is very pretty, full 
of newes.” 

The earlier gazettes were mostly concerned with Contin- 
ental war-news. Blount, in the preface to his Glossographia 
or Dictionary of Hard Words (1656), tells us, “In every 
Mercurius, Coranto, Gazet or Diurnal, I met with cami- 
sados, pallizados, lantspezados, brigades, squadrons, curas- 
siers, bonernines, halts, junctas, paroles, etc.” Thus came 
into existence a new profession, that of the gazefteeVy^ or 
journalist, a title for which unkind printers or ill-wishers to 
journalism soon found the variant garreteer. In Donne’s 
panegyric verses prefixed to Coryat’s Crudities (1611) 
occurs the ironical line, “As deep a statesman as a gazet- 
teer,” in which, when reprinted in his Poems (1650), 
garreteer was substituted. In fact, the earliest mentions of 
the craft are mostly allusive to journalistic ignorance. This 
was perhaps what led Lawrence Eachard to publish (c. 1 690) 
a pocket-volume, “partly design’d for all such as frequent 
coffee-houses, and other places for news,” to which he gave 
the title, The Gazetteer’s or Newsman’s Interpreter, a Geo- 
graphical Index, now known, along with all its offspring 
and imitations, simply as the Gazetteer. 

Gossamer 

Some words seem to be the natural inheritance of the 
poet. Gossamer is still used in its literal sense, but our pro- 
^ Also called a mercurist. 


38 



GOSSAMER 


saic age inclines rather to cobweb^ leaving gossamer to express 
the airily impalpable and iridescent : 

Calm and deep peace on this high wold, 

And on these dews that drench the furze, 

And all the silvery gossamers 
That twinkle into green and gold. 

(In Memoriam, xi.) 

It has, in fact, always been a poetic word, from Chaucer to 
the present day. 

Like other poetic words, it has been seized on by the 
tradesman in search of an effective symbol for lightness. 
An obsolete London slang name for a hat was goss. The 
Oxford Dictionary has no record of it after 1848, but 
Hotten’s Slang Dictionary (1864) has the entry ''goss: a 
hat; from gossamer silk with which modern hats are made/’ 
and I remember it quite well as in general use among 
schoolboys, c. 1880. Mr. Sam Weller knew it in the longer 
form: “Afore the brim went, it was a werry handsome tile. 
Hows’ever it’s lighter without it, that’s one thing, and every 
hole lets in some air, that’s another — ^wentilation gossamer 
I calls it” (Pickwick, ch. 12). 

It is probable that, before being applied to the threads 
spun by immature spiders, gossamer was used of the season 
of the year, a warm spell in autumn during which it is 
chiefly seen. The original name seems to have been 
goose-summer^ about equivalent to the “St. Martin’s summer” 
which we have borrowed from French, and referring to the 
fact that geese are then in season, so that the origin of our 
pretty word may be prosaic. The same might be said of 
butterfly, which suggests all that is bright-hued, dainty and 
graceful, but which, when analysed into its component 
parts, has no more inherent poetry than cheese-mite. But the 
name may refer to the southward flight of the wild geese in 
autumn. 

In German both the season and the filaments are called 
mddchensommer (maiden-summer) and altweihersommer (old 

39 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

wives* summer). Dutch kraanzomer substitutes the crane 
for the goose, probably because flocks of cranes were seen 
flying south in autumn. Other fanciful names are Dutch 
zomerdraden and Ger. sommerfaden (summer threads), also 
Dutch herfstdraden (autumn threads), and, prettiest of all, 
Fr.//j de la Vierge, Our Lady’s threads. 

Gossoon 

That beef and cow are ultimately the same word is one of 
those facts that delight the student of etymology and pro- 
voke the incredulous bray of the ignorant. Similarly 
wretch and gossoon have not a sound or letter in common, but 
it is not difflcult to establish their ultimate identity. 

Anglo-Saxon had a verb wrecan, to avenge, which we now 
use in the pleonasm ‘‘to wreak vengeance,” or incorrectly 
in ‘‘to wreak havoc.” ^ Its original sense was to drive, 
expel, and it is cognate with Lat. urgere. The “avenger of 
blood” (Joshua XX. 5) is Coverdale’s substitute for Wyclif’s 
“blood-wreaker.” The verb is found in all the Teutonic 
languages, e.g. Ger. rdchen^ to avenge, which once meant to 
expel and began with a w-. It is also related to wracks 
wreck, the thing driven. Corresponding to the verb was an 
Anglo-Saxon noun wracca, an outcast, exile, hence a miser- 
able person, “wretch,” the sense that has persisted up to the 
present day. 

We have a parallel to the history of wretch in Ger. elend, 
wretched, originally exiled, from Old High Ger. eli-lenti, 
“other-Iandish,” the first element of which is cognate with 
Eng. else and Lat. alius, and also survives in Ger. Elsass (Fr. 
Alsace), seat of strangers. 

The German noun recke, corresponding to wretch, has had 
a very different history. The sense of exile passed into that 
of desperado, just as It. bandito, the banished man, came to 
mean robber. In Mid. High German a recke was first an 

^ This and similar phrases seem to be due to the illusion that wreak 
is the present tense of wrought. 

40 



GRASS-WIDOW 


exile, then an adventurer, then a hireling fighting-man or 
soldier of fortune, and finally a stout warrior, a hero. With 
the revival of an interest in the medieval the word was dis- 
interred by the 18th-century poets, and recke became a 
favourite term in the vocabulary of the early German 
Romantics. In Modern German it is a stock journalistic 
epithet for imposing figures, such as that of Bismarck in 
cuirassier uniform. 

The earliest form of recke was Old High Ger. wrecceo. 
Like many other words that can be applied to persons, it is 
recorded as a proper name, in the Latinized form Waracioy 
earlier (9th century) than its occurrence as a common noun. 

The etymology of the French word gargon has busied most 
etymologists at some time or other. It has long been recog- 
nized that a Late Lat. warcio, warcionerriy of Teutonic origin, 
would account for garSy gargotiy and this warcio is now dis- 
covered ^ in the original form of Ger, recke y a ‘ 'wretch.” In 
the oldest French texts gargon means something like varlet, a 
sense easily evolved from that of the Germanic original. 
Its earliest-known occurrence is in the Chanson de Roland, 
where it is coupled with esquier. 

Gargon is now regarded in English as a word to be pro- 
nounced in pseudo-French fashion. In the Daily News, 
“Under the Clock” once defined gar song as “a cry emitted 
at short intervals by Englishmen travelling abroad.” But 
it was completely acclimatized in Mid. English in the form 
garsoon. In the 1 7th century it dropped out of use, but not 
before it had been adopted in Anglo-Irish as gossoon. 

Grass-widow 

From the days of the Matron of Ephesus down to those of 
Mr. Weller’s “ second wentur,” the widow has been the 
subject of much ill-natured criticism, and her title has been 
decorated with ironical additions. In 18th-century French 
a lady whose husband was absent in the East was some- 
^ See Kluge, Zeitschrift fur romanische Philologie, xli, 684. 


D 


41 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

times called a 'Veuve de Malabar.” ^ In the fifties of the 
19th century New York had many ''California widows/’ 
whose husbands had joined the gold-rush. "Golf-widow” 
is a Soth-century witticism modelled on the Anglo-Indian 
grass-widow. The latter came into use, apparently after the 
Mutiny, to describe "ladies recreating in the hill-stations, 
while their husbands are at their duties in the plains” 
(Hobson-Jobson®). Though the name is often used "with a 
shade of malignity” (ibid.), the Anglo-Indian grass-widow 
has, except for the playful allusion to her forsaken condi- 
tion, no connection in meaning with the 16th-century 
grass-widow^ who was an improper person. 

A grass-widow was, according to the Dictionary of the 
Canting Grew (c. 1700), "one that pretends to be married, 
but never was, yet has children.” In this disreputable 
sense it is still used in dialect, and is well documented, also 
in the sense of discarded mistress, from the i6th century 
onward. The first Oxford Dictionary record is from Sir 
Thomas More (1528). There is a gap between its dis- 
appearance from polite English at the end of the i8th 
century and its Anglo-Indian revival in a less objectionable 
sense. 

The type of etymologist who explains Welsh rabbit as 
"Welsh rarebit ” ® and turns the M^ay ketchup into catsup 
has tried to work his wicked will on grass-widow^ which he 
proclaims to be a corruption of "grace-widow.” The 
parallel Continental forms show that grass is the original 
form, though it is doubtful whether it is connected with 
turning out to grass or with grass as the bed of the outcast. 
Heywood (1546) ends the account of a conjugal disagree- 
ment with the lines : 

^ Originally the title of a tragedy by Lemierre (1770). 

® A Glossary of Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, by Yule and 
Burnell. 

®This first appears in Grose (1785). Welsh rabbit (for which Mrs. 
Glasse has Scotch rabbit) is much older. Cf. such fanciful names as 
Bombay duck (a fish), Dutch oyster, Scotch woodcock, angels on horseback, etc. 

42 



GRASS-WIDOW 


At end of that fray asunder they go. 

And never after came together againe — 

He turned her out at doorcs to grase on the plaine. 

(Proverbs ii. lo.) 

the last line being apparently a recognized proverbial expres- 
sion used in such context. The Old French phrase ^‘laisser 
sur ie vert/’ to abandon, may have had a similar origin. 

The equivalent Continental terms usually have simply 
the meaning of deserted wife, though sometimes with an 
implied reflection on the lady’s morals. In connection 
with Ger. strohwitwe, lit. straw-widow, not found before the 
1 8th century, some lines from Goethe’s Faust are always 
quoted. These are spoken by the deserted Martha, who 
has been left ‘‘on the straw” : 

Gott verzeih’s meinem lieben mann, 

Er hat an mir nicht wohl getan! 

Geht da stracks in die welt hinein 
Und lasst mich auf dem stroh allein.^ 

(Faust, i, 2865.) 

In Danish we find gras~enke {enke = widow), now used in 
the modern sense of grass-widow^ but earlier of a widow 
whose husband had been hanged, while Swed. gras-anka^ wife 
whose husband is absent, has, in dialect, also an opprobrious 
sense. These words are both translated from archaic Low 
Ger, gras-wedewe. The corresponding Dutch word is gras- 
weduwe^ for which we find also earlier hack-weduwe^ ex- 
plained by Kilian (1620) as “mulier mariti absentis adven- 
tum avide affectans, q.d. vidua expectans sive appetens 
avide.” This definition associates the grass-widow with 
hmken (now haaken)^ to desire, lit. to hook. The analogy of 
the other languages suggests that she is more likely to be 
connected with an obsolete hack which Kilian explains as 
“meta foeni,” i.e. a haycock. Hack-weduwe is also recorded 

^ God forgive my dear husband. 

He has not behaved well to mel 
Goes straightway out into the world 
And leaves me alone on the straw. 


43 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 
in a Dutch-Latin Dictionary of 1587, i.e. not much later 
than our grass-widow. 

From all this it is clear that the lady in whom we are 
interested J:;ias to dOj not with grace, but with grass, or, 
alternatively, with straw or hay. To the suggestions 
already offered for the reason of the name may be added the 
statement in Falk and Torp that, in some districts of 
Germany, brides who have anticipated conjugal life are 
obliged at their nuptials to replace the floral wreath by one 
of straw. This may, however, be rather a result of the 
name than its cause. Finally, we may mention the prac- 
tice, alluded to in Faust, of strewing hdckerling, i.e. chopped 
straw, before the doors of the unchaste ; 

Das kranzel reissen die buben ihr, 

Und hackerling streuen wir vor die tiir.^ 

(Faust, i, 3575.) 


Gun 

The great gun seems, by its size, noise and general im- 
pressiveness, to have assumed for our ancestors a sort of 
human character resulting in the attribution of a personal 
name. Let us work backwards. The giant which, during 
World War I, dropped shells into Paris from a distance of 
about seventy miles, was affectionately called by the 
Germans “die dicke (fat) Bertha, ’’ from the name of the 
lady who inherited the Krupp works and millions. About the 
same time a six-inch howitzer collecting War Loan sub- 
scriptions in the East End of London was greeted as 
“Hungry Liz.” During the South African War the garri- 
son of Ladysmith were much worried by a Boer cannon 
which they called “Long Tom,” a very old name in the 
Navy for a gun of great range and calibre. During the 
Royalist uprising in La Vendee (1793) at the time of the 
French Revolution, the peasants regarded as a kind of 
mascot one “Marie-Jeanne,” an antiquated field-piece 

^ The lads will tear off her garland atid we will strew chaff before her 
door. 


44 



GUN 


which they dragged about with them everywhere. At 
Edinburgh Castle there is a 15th-century culverin known as 
“Long Meg/’ from its size, or “Mons Meg/’ from the Bel- 
gian town where it was probably cast. A German gun 
famous in the Brandenburg wars of the early 15th century 
was called “die faule Crete/’ lazy Peggy. 

With the 14th century we come back to the mother of all 
guns, the “Lady Gunhilda.” The word gun is pre-gun- 
powder, like artillery, still used of bows and arrows even in 
the Authorized Version. When Jonathan had finished 
shooting, “he gave his artillery unto his lad” (i Samuel xx. 
40) . The first mention of guns in the modern sense is dated 
1339, when “sex instrumenta de latone (brass) vocitata 
gonnes” are included in an inventory of the London^uild- 
hall. By Chaucer’s day the word was quite familiar: 
Throughout every regioun 
Wente this foule trumpet soun, 

As swift as pelet ^ out of gonne, 

When fyre is in the poudre donne 

(House of Fame, ii, 555.) 

But the earliest known gun was a catapult or mangonel. 
In an inventory of Windsor Castle (1330-1) occurs the 
item “una magna ballista de cornu quae vocatur ‘Domina 
Gunhilda,’ ” and an allusion to the same stone-hurling 
engine, by the name of Gonild, is found in a political song 
of still more ancient date. It is probable that the English 
^•gonners and artellers” of whom we read in 1344 had as 
much to do with mangonels as with the new fire-arms. 
The transition of sense has a parallel in the British soldier’s 
bandook or bundook, a rifle, originally the Arabic name for a 
crossbow. A still closer parallel is howitzer, which became 
familiar during World War I. Until robot became a “vogue- 
word,” this was the only Czech contribution to English. 
It was originally a stone-throwing machine used in the 
Hussite wars of the 14th century. 

^ Both pellet and btdlet were originally used of large projectiles; cf. 
Fr. boulet, cannon-ball, and Eng. bullet-headed^ 


45 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

Harlequin 

Demons and fiends are usually decorated with personal 
names, sometimes almost friendly in character, such as our 
"‘Old Harry^’ or “Old Nick’’ for the Enemy of Mankind. 
The minor demon which scientists call the ignis f aims ^ a 
Med. Latin translation of'Fv.feufollet, is not only known as 
“Will o’ the wisp” and “Jack o’ lantern,” but also in dialect 
as “Billy wi’ t’ wisp,” “Hob lantern,” “Kitty candlestick,” 
“Peggy lantern,” “Dick a Tuesday,” “Gillian burn-tail,” 
etc. In the neighbourhood of Bethune he is fltlequin, and 
few words have led to more etymological conjectures and 
research.^ 

Harlequin^ as we know him, is one of the group of panto- 
mime characters who belonged originally to the Italian 
commedia delV arte. But, before becoming the associate of 
Columbine and Pantaloon, he was a medieval fiend, some 
of whose diabolical features persist in details of his costume 
and his supposed invisibility to the other actors. His name 
is found, from the 12th century onward, in Old French, 
with a large number of variants {Herleckin, Hierlekin^ Helle-- 
quin, Hennequin, Hernequin, Herlewin, etc.). He is represented 
as the demon leader of a demon band of hunters, galloping 
across country at night or heard passing through the air. 
The myth, which is an old one, belongs especially to Nor- 
mandy, where it still persists, though the name suggests a 
Flemish origin. It probably belongs to prehistoric pagan- 
ism, but Christianity converted it into a legend of the 
unquiet spirits of the damned. 

In the Middle Ages Harlequin degenerated into a comic 
devil of street performances, eventually annexed by the 
Italian commedia, and, as the old rustic superstition did not 
die out, the original fiend divided, so to speak, into two 
personalities. 

AlS is usual with such legends, Harlequin became identi- 

1 See especially Dricsen, Der Ursprung des Harlekin (Berlin, 1904), 
and RuHemann, Etymologie des Wortes arUquin (Halle a. S., 1912)* 

46 



HARLEQUIN 

fied with various historical characters^ c.g. with Herod, 
with a rather vague Hernequin, Count of Boulogne, and, by 
a wild anachronism, with Charies-Qjuint ^ (fisBo), who, in 
this version of the legend, is confused with Charles Martel, 
who defeated the Moors in 732. These are all edifying 
explanations, tending to show the punishment of the 
wicked. 

The Earliest account describes the familia Herlechini^ 
rendered in Old French by “la mesnie * Hellequin’’ and in 
Mid. English (Langland) by “Hurlewayne’s meyne or 
kynne.’’ Later he becomes Hellwain, mentioned by 
Archbishop Harsnett in his Declaration of Egregious 
Popish Impostures (1603}, and his last incarnation in this 
country is as “Herne the Hunter,” who haunted Windsor 
Forest with his demon band, and is mentioned several 
times in The Merry Wives of Windsor. 

Apart from the forced association of Harlequin with vari- 
ous historical names, a few more fantastic guesses may be 
mentioned. He has been derived from the town of Arles, 
from the Flemish hellekint^ child of hell, from It. arlotto and 
lecchinOy both meaning glutton, and has even been identified 
with the Erlking.® Finally, some forms of the name and the 
“big club” (p. 48) of the earliest account rather suggest 
some intrusion of Hercules, who, for the medieval stage 
was a ranting tyrant (see Midsummer Night’s Dream, i, 2). 
Mr. Allardyce Nicoll, in Masks, Mimes and Miracles^ 
quotes a 16th-century Latinist’s description of an actor so 
costumed “ut luderet personam Herculis vel Harlequini in 
comedia”; but the late date and the ambiguous force of vel 
make this evidence worthless so far as the original demon 

^ Charles V of France; not the famous 16th-century Emperor usually 
meant by this title. 

® Old French for household, retinue; whence obsolete Eng. meiny 
(Lear, ii, 4) and the derivative mental, 

®This tide, made famous by Goethe’s ballad, is due to Herder’s 
mistake in translating the Danish ellerkongy which is for elverkong^ king of 
the elves, as though it meant king of the alders (Ger. erle). 


47 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

rider is concerned. Nor does one remember that Hercules 
was much of an equestrian. 

The earliest records of the demon’s appearance are 
delightfully naive. Ordericus Vitalis, writing in Latin c. 
113O5 tells how the wild hunt was encountered on Jan. I5 
1092, by a priest named Gauchelin, who was even able to 
identify some of the riders ! Th^familia was led by Herle- 
chinus, of gigantic stature and armed with a huge club. 
The ladies of the band, who rode on side-saddles studded 
with white-hot nails, were occasionally lifted a cubit by the 
wind, and then dropped back in such a way that “in 
natibus vulnerabantur.” Walter Map, in his De Nugis 
Guriaiium (c. 1200), informs us that the Herletking, the 
demon retinue of a British King Herla, was last seen in 
Herefordshire in the first year of Henry II (1154), several 
Welshmen having observed its final plunge into the Wye! 

The etymology of the name remains unsolved. Ruhle- 
mann puts forward confidently as origin the Flemish 
kellekiuj little hell. My own conviction, based, it is true, on 
much less knowledge and research, is that it is some 
familiar personal name, used like one of the many appella- 
tions of the ignis fatuus, Hennequin^ now a common French 
surname, is the Flemish Henekin^ i.e. Johnny, which is 
used also as a term of vituperation. The oldest recorded 
form is Herlechin, but who can say how many variants 
existed before the time of Ordericus Vitalis ? 

Henchman 

In English a henchman is usually the stalwart and trusty 
right-hand man of the hero or villain in romantic narrative. 
In the United States he is, according to the Century 
Dictionary, “a mercenary adherent; a venal follower; one 
who holds himself at the bidding of another. ’ * In the Middle 
Ages he was a horsegroom. There is a gap of about two 
centuries in his history. When a word belonging to the 
48 



HENCHMAN 


romantic or picturesque vocabulary offers a cfironological 
puzzle of this kind, the answer is usually Scott. 

Hengest-man, with a number of variant forms, ^ is copiously 
recorded in Mid. English in a sense which it is now impos- 
sible to define exactly; but, as it comes from Anglo-Sax. 
hengest* a stallion, the hengest-man^ like the marshal ® and the 
constable probably started as a groom and gradually rose 
in the world. Palsgrave equates henchman with page d^kon-^ 
neur and enfant d^honneur^ evidently a youth of high rank. 
The corps of ‘Toyal henchmen,’’ also called '‘children of 
honour,” was dissolved by Queen Elizabeth in 1565, with 
the result that the word died out. 

In 1810 Scott revived it in the Lady of the Lake (ii, 35), 
a footnote explaining that “a henchman was the confiden- 
tial attendant or gilly of a chief. His standing behind his 
lord at festivals originated the name of haunchman or 
henchman.” Four years later, in Waverley (ch. 16), Evan 
Dhu, describing to the hero of the novel the glories of his 
chieftain’s state, begins the enumeration of the retinue with 
his “haunchman or right-hand man.” In the form hench- 
man it at once became a popular word with romantic poets 
and novelists. The question arises, what is the connection 
between this haunch-man, which in Scottish would be pro- 
nounced hainchman, hencheman, and the medieval hengest- 
man, the ancestor of the Tudor henchman ? 

There is a link, though a weak and dubious one, between 
Queen Elizabeth and Scott. During the years 1724-35, 
Major-General Wade was policing the Highlands and 
building military roads across the hills : 

Had you seen but these roads before they were made, 

You would hold up your hands and bless General Wade. 

^ Such as Hensman, Hinxman, Ehnksman, surviving as modern 
surnames. 

* A word common to the Teutonic language; cf. Dutch and Ger. 
hengst. It was also the war-name of a famous invader. 

* Via Old French from Old High Ger. marah-scalh, horse servant, and 
Vulgar Lat. comts stabuU, companion of the stable. 


49 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

He had with him in his employ, in a civil capacity, one 
Edward Burt, who recorded his impressions of the High- 
lands in Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland.^ 
It was from this book that Scott obtained much of his High- 
land local colour, for, as a Lowlandcr or Borderer, he had 
no great first-hand knowledge of Gaelic matters. There is 
little doubt that it was his source for henchman, Burt gives a 
full account of the hanchman, “ready on all occasions to ven- 
ture his life in defence of his master; and at drinking-bouts 
he stands behind his seat, at his haunch, from whence his 
title is derived.’* There is no other authority for hanchman 
in the sense of Highland giily, and it almost looks as if Burt 
invented the word, misunderstood his informant, or had 
his leg pulled by some young officer more familiar with 
Highland matters. For it can hardly be supposed that an 
English word, obsolete soon after 1600, would bob up sud- 
denly among the Scotch mountains with a new sense and a 
fanciful etymology. 

My own opinion is that Scott, who knew Tudor and 
Stuart literature inside out, jumped to the conclusion that 
Burt’s hanchman was identical with the Shakespearean 
henchman — 

Wliy should Titania cross her Oberon? 

I do but beg a little changeling boy 

To be my henchman.® 

(Midsummer Night’s Dream, ii, i) — 

and believed that the latter, whose medieval history and 
early disappearance did not come within his knowledge, 
was veritably a hamch^man. 

Homesick 

It is doubtful whether the ancients had any poetic con- 
ception of home. Ulysses and Ovid both disliked the toils 

^ Referred to by Scott, in his preface to Waverley, as “the curious 
‘Letters from the Highlands,’ published about I736«** 

® The only occurrence of the word in Shakespeare. 


50 



HOMESICK 


and discomforts of exile, but neither Greek nor Latin has 
any word expressive of that longing for home, which, like 
the love of natural scenery, is an essentially modern 
aspect of human feeling. According to Aristophanes, 
IlaTpts yap eorrc vacr Iv av ^parrif rig €v (Plutus, 1, II51), 
which Cicero renders, “Patria est, ubicumque est bene” 
(Tusculan Disputations). The same is true of the old 
Teutons. Ger. elend, misery, lit. exile (see p. 40), reflects 
the feelings of the banished man, but neither in Old High 
German nor in Anglo-Saxon is there any word at all corres- 
ponding to homesickness^ which did not come into English use 
till the end of the i8th century. 

It was in May 1798 that Coleridge, while in Germany, 
wrote a poem called ‘‘Homesick,” in which occurs the line 
“Homesickness is a wasting pang.” It was suggested to 
him by Ger. keimweh^ lit. home-woe, the poetical use of 
which in Germany is not much anterior to Coleridge’s 
poem. It is as rare to find a 19th-century German poet 
who has not written a poem with the title Heimweky as to 
find one of the i8th century who’ has. In its earliest occur- 
rences in poetic German keimweh always has specific refer- 
ence to Switzerland, to the longing of the exiled mountaineer 
for his Alpine home, or the tears shed by the Swiss mercen- 
ary on hearing the ranz des vaches or kuhreigen : 

Zu Strassburg auf der schanz. 

Da ging mein trauern an. 

Das Alphorn hort’ ich druben wohl anstimmen. 

Ins vaterland musst* ich hiniiber schwimmen ® . . . . 

This famous volkslied appeared in its present form in Des 
Knaben Wunderhorn, a collection of old songs and ballads 
compiled (1805) by Arnim and Brentano. It violently 
introduces the Swiss heimweh motif (with the soldier at 

^ Also translated into French (c. 1 700) as mat (or maladie) du pays, 

® At Strasbourg on the ramparts my sorrow began. I heard the 
Alphorn played yonder. I had to swim across to the fatherland . . . 

51 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 
Strasbourg hearing the Alphorn in Switzerland!), in place 
of the much more prosaic original; 

Da wollt’ ich den Fran20sen deserderen, 

Und wolit’ es bei den Preussen probieren,^ 

Perhaps the most beautiful of all heimweh songs is Mi- 
gnon’s, in Wilhelm Meister, ‘‘Kennst du das land, wo die 
zitronen bliih’n?” This was written in 1784, but, though 
Goethe was already familiar with the word heimweh^ it was 
for him a Swiss provincialism of rather prosaic meaning, 
quite unsuited to dignified lyric. Even the Swiss poet 
Halier, writing at Leyden in 1726, entitled his heimweh 
poem “ Sehnsucht nach dem Vaterlande,’’ Longing for the 
Fatherland, avoiding, as it were, the native term so familiar 
to him. Early occurrences in German prose usually relate 
to ‘‘das sogenannte Schweizerheimweh/’ the so-called 
Swiss homesickness. 

The origin of the word is prosaic. It is known that 
mountaineers are affected in health by being transplanted 
to the plain. This seems to have been especially the case 
with the Swiss, though we have equally early records of 
heimweh as attacking men from the Bavarian Highlands. 
The first mentions of the word are in purely medical litera- 
ture, and the learned term nostalgia^ from Gr. voo-ro?, 
return home, ^yo9, pain, is of equal antiquity. Both 
make almost their fir&t appearance in print in the title 
of a work published in 1678 by J. J. Horder, a doctor at 
Basel: Dissertatio Medica de Noo-TaAyta oder Heimwehe 
Oder Heimsucht. As late as c. 1790 Casanova writes, 
“J’^tais atteint de ce qu’on appelle nostalgic et que les 
Suisses et les Allemands appellent ‘heimweh,’ mal de chez 
soi, mal du pays. Pour les Suisses le ‘heimweh’ est une 
maladie mortelle, une veritable peste, qui les emporte vite, 
si Ton ne se hate de les rendre a leurs penates.” 

To sum up, “Our word was not created by love of nature, 

1 1 wanted to desert the French and make a trial of the Prussian service. 


5 * 



HONEYMOON 


it is not the expression of a contemplative yearning, awak- 
ened or intensified by long deprivation. It came into 
German from the medical literature of Switzerland as the 
name of a Swiss malady. Neither Mignon nor Iphigenia 
could use the dialect word. Schiller and Hoiderlin avoid it 
entirely. Wherever it occurs in German literature of the 
1 8th century, it bears the stamp of its alien origin. Only 
after Mignon had given voice to her deep sorrow in the 
deepest of all heimweh-songs, did ‘heimweh’ begin to 
appear as the motif of lyric poetry outside Switzerland*’ 
(Kluge, Wortforschung und Wortgeschichte, p. 75). 

Honeymoon 

The newly wed are apt to appear somewhat comic, or 
tragic, to those who realize the inevitability of the ‘‘waning” 
of the honeymoon. The first lexicographer to note our word 
is Minsheu (1617) : ^^honie-moone: applied to those that love 
well at the first, and not so well afterwards, but will change 
as doth the moone.” So also Blount (1656): ^^hony-moon: 
applied to those marryed persons that love well at first and 
decline in affection afterwards : it is hony now, but it will 
change as the moon.” Miege (1688) is cruder: “When a 
couple are newly married, the first month is all ‘honey 
moon’ or smick-smack, the second is hither and thither, the 
third is thwick-thwack, and the fourth, the Devil take them 
that brought thee and I together.” The 18th century is 
more optimistic, or, at any rate, non-committal, e.g. John- 
son’s definition is “the first month after marriage, when 
there is nothing but tenderness and pleasure.” 

The Oxford Dictionary tells us that the compound had 
originally “no reference to the period of a month, but com- 
pared the mutual affection of newly married persons to the 
changing moon, which is no sooner full than it begins to 
wane.” Though this view is supported by the earliest 
examples, this is probably only due to the innate cussedness 
of human nature, for the corresponding expressions in other 

53 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

languages point distinctly to a period of time. Fr. lune de 
miel and It. lum di miele are of much more recent formation 
than honeymoon, and are translated from the English word. 

Apparently much older than the English term is Old 
Norse kjunottsmdnathr,^ lit. wedding-night-month. German 
has fdtterwocken, lit. tinsel weeks, recorded from the early 
1 6th century. Flitter is explained by a German lexico- 
grapher (i6i6) as ‘'ornamentum capitis/’ and an 18th- 
century authority states that brides wore their spangled 
wedding-caps and fal-lals for a certain period after mar- 
riage. Others connect fiitterwochen with Mid. High Ger. 
flitern, to caress. In South Germany kiissmonaty kiss month, 
was usual. It occurs (1669) in the famous realistic novel 
Simplicissimus. Most homely of all is Dutch wiitebroods- 
weken, lit. white-bread-weeks, suggesting the peasant 
couple’s respite from toil and frugality. This is rather 
oddly amplified in Sewel’s Dutch Dictionary (1766): 

honeymoon: wittebroods week, de eerste maand na dat men 
getrouwd is, als men nog geen zak zout met malkanderen 
gegeeten heeft,” i.e. the first month after people are mar- 
ried, when they have still not eaten a sack of salt together. 
The connection between salt and long intercourse is old in 
Dutch, and goes back to the classics. It is referred to by 
Aristotle and Plutarch; cf. also “Verum id est quod vulgo 
dicitur multos modos salis simul edendos esse, ut amicitiae 
munus expletum sit” (Cicero, De Amicitia, xix, 67). 

Husbandman 

It is probable that no one ever did so much to arouse 
an intelligent interest in word-history as Archbishop 
Trench. His two books, On the Study of Words (1851) and 
English Past and Present (1855), were the first attempts to 
make the dry bones of philology live. He was a man of 
great learning and wide reading, but necessarily handi- 

^ Is it possible that honeymoon has nothing to do with hon^, but is 
poptilar etymology for this Old Norse word ? 

54 



HUSBANDMAN 


capped by the rudimentary state of philological knowledge 
in his day* He was, moreover, somewhat too ready to 
accept etymologies which furnished opportunities for im- 
proving the occasion: “And other woids there are, having 
reference to the family and the relations of family life, 
which are not less full of teaching, which each may serve to 
remind of some duty. For example, ‘husband’ is properly 
‘house-band/ the band and bond of the house, who shall 
bind and hold it together. Thus, old Tusser, in his Points 
of Husbandry: 

The name of the ‘husband* what is it to say? 

Of wife and of household the band and the stay.’* 

The second syllable of husband is not band^ a tie, but 
bond, a dweller, a word introduced from Old Norse, ^ 
and originally the present participle of a verb meaning to 
dwell. It is ultimately related to Ger. bauer, a peasant or 
farmer. The Anglo-Sax. husbonda was not necessarily 
either a married man or a farmer, but simply a house- 
holder, the master of the house. It is probably this sense of 
the word that survives in the surname Younghusband. 
The word early assumed the meaning of tiller, and, in 
some regions, corresponded to the villein,^ or servile tenant. 
The sense in which husband is now most familiar appears in 
early Mid. English. 

Our curious trick of turning a noun into a verb gave us 
the verb to husband, to manage. The oldest meaning of 
husbandry was the administration of a household (cf. 
housewifery), corresponding to Gr. olKovofiia, house- 
rule,' “economy.” When Tusser wrote (1557) his Hun- 
dredth Good Pointes of Husbandrie, he was thinking, not 
^ The Old Norse word is bondi, earlier buondi, from bm, to dwell, a 
verb found in the other Teutonic languages, gradually assuming the 
sense of cultivating, building, Bonde still exists in Danish and Swedish, 
and is often contemptuous, like our churl, etc. (see p. 21). Bondage, 
originally the tenure of land by a bond, or fanner, early acquired, partly 
by association with bond, a fetter, the sense of servitude, 

* See p. 22. 


55 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

only of agriculture, at which, like some other theorists, he 
had been a failure, but of the economic management of a 
household. On December 5, 1667, Pepys sent his father 
six pairs of his old shoes, ‘'not for want, but for good 
husbandry.” 

Mid. English elaborated husband into husbandman (cf. 
fisherman, merchantman, etc.), with the double sense of 
householder, farmer. The Oxford Dictionary records it 
from c. 1330, but it must be much older, for in the Patent 
Rolls for i225-'32 occurs the name of John Husebundeman. 
A word must have a long life before it becomes an official 
description, so it is possible that husbandman really existed in 
late Anglo-Saxon. In Wyclif husbandman is used in the 
“master of the house” sense, e.g. “Gif the housbonde man 
[Vulgate, paterfamilias, Gr. okoSccrTrorjys] wiste in what 
houre the theef were to comme, trewly he shulde wake” 
(Matt. xxiv. 43), while in the parable of the vineyard 
(Matt. xxi. 33), it is a husbandman [Vulgate, paterfamilias, 
Gr. clKoB€(T 7 r 6 T 7]^1 who plants the vineyard and lets it 
to “erthe tiliers” [Vulgate, agricolae, Gr. 

In Tyndale it is a householder who lets the vineyard to 
husbandmen. 

Most people, if suddenly asked for the masculine of “wife,” 
would reply “husband.” Strictly speaking, the correct 
answer would be “man” (cf. the corresponding Fr. homme, 
Ger. mann, and our “man and wife”). The feminine of 
husband is housewife, Anglo-Sax. huswife which has a curious 
history. Colloquially it became hussif^ hussy. As late as 
the 1 8th century a “good hussy” meant an economical 
manager, but, being often used vituperatively, preceded by 
such adjectives as “light,” “saucy,” “skittish,” “impudent,” 
etc., the word gradually absorbed such adjectives iiito itself, 

^ Not actually recorded till early Mid, English. 

® With the use of this word tor a pocket sewing-case, cf. Fr. chiielaine, 
chain to which keys, sewing-case, etc., are suspended, Kt. lady of the 
castle. 

56 



IRONSIDE 


just as quean^ woman, did at an earlier date. Tke full form 
housewife was also used in the same way up to the early i8th 
century, e.g. '"'impudent housewife” occurs in Vanbrugh*s 
Confederacy (v. 2 ). 

With hussy for housewife we may compare goody for good-- 
wife: “What’s the matter with his leg, goody?” (Farquhar, 
The Beaux’ Stratagem, iv, i). This was once the regular 
name for a woman whose station did not entitle her to be 
called “mistress,” and, within the memory of those now 
living, was still applied to old countrywomen. Falstaff 
addresses Mrs. Quickly as goodwife (Merry Wives, ii, 2), but 
always says “Mistress Ford.” 

The Authorized Version adopts Tyndale’s “good man off 
the housse” for Wyclif’s husbandman (Matt. xxiv. 43). By 
the Elizabethans goodman ^ and goodwife were sometimes 
used with some tinge of condescension. In Shakespeare 
goodman is often contemptuous: “Come hither, goodman 
baldpate. Do you know me?” (Measure for Measure, v), 
but in Scottish both gudeman and gudewife have preserved a 
quiet dignity. 

Ironside 

Most of our kings and princes bear historic nicknames. 
Some of these nicknames are the inventions of chroniclers 
who lived centuries after their supposed bearers or the ima- 
ginations of modern poets and romancers. The epithet 
sine terra is found applied to John before he came to the 
throne. Edward I is described by Langtoft as “od le lunge 
jambes,” the barbarous Anglo-French equivalent of “with 
the longe shonkes,” which occurs in a political song on the 
execution of Sir Simon Frazer (1306). So we may assume 
that John and Edward I were really known to their contem- 
poraries as Lackland (or Sansterre) and Longshanks. 

^ (X Fr. bonkomnu, used especially in the appellation Jacques Bon- 
homme, the personification of the French peasant, and bonne fenwu, 
rustic matron. 


E 


57 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

On the other hand, the Black Prince, who for Froissart was 
"Xc Prince de Galles,” is first decorated with the adjective 
by the 16th-century chroniclers Grafton and Holinshed. 
They' may have reduced oral tradition to writing, or one of 
them may have invented the name. The same applies to 
non-royal figures, e.g. there is almost contemporary evid» 
ence for Harry Hotspur, but Warwick is first called the King” 
maker in Daniel’s Giviil Warres (1599). ‘‘Bluff King Hal” 
is one of Scott’s numerous contributions to historical 
phraseology : 

That Wolsey’s voice the blessing spoke. 

More, Sands and Denny passed the joke; 

That bluif King Hal the curtain drew. 

And Catherine’s hand the stocking threw. 

(Marmion, vi, 38.) 

Walpole, in 1762, had written of Henry VIIFs “bluiff 
haughtiness,” giving to bluff its then accepted sense of “surly, 
blustering” (Johnson), so that Scott here, as in many other 
cases, has actually brought about a change in the meaning 
of a word. 

Among the pre-Conquest kings four are especially well 
known to us by nicknames, viz. Alfred the Great, Ethelred 
the Unready, Edmund Ironside and Edward the Confessor. 
The first of these names is obviously the verdict of posterity. 
Unready is a corruption, first found in Stow (1580), of the 
epithet unrede, applied to Ethelred (t 1016) in a text of the 
early 13th century. Anglo-Sax. unrad is an abstract noun/ 
the opposite of r 3 d, counsel, wisdom, and the epithet is an 
ironical substitute for the second part of the king’s name, 
which means “noble counsel.” The Mid. Eng. rede sur- 
vives historically in the name Richard the Redeless, given 
to Richard II in Langiand’s poem. The title of Edward the 
Confessor, first found in William of Malmesbury (c. 1 140), 
is perhaps generally misunderstood. Confessor is not used 
here in the sense of priest, but in the old Church sense of 

^ The early use of abstract nouns as nicknames has resulted in many 
still existing surnames (Gounsell, Charity, Pride, Luck, etc.). 

58 



IRONSIDE 


one who avows his creed in the face of persecution, without 
actually suffering martyrdom. 

This leaves us Edmund Ironside, whose nickname is re» 
corded in the same text as that of E their ed. Ironside ^ a 
natural epithet for a strong and formidable man, was a 
familiar Mid. English nickname. John Ironside was a free- 
man of York in 1335. The surname stiU exists, and there 
are thirteen Ironsides in the London Telephone Directory. 

The compound is most familiar to us in its application to 
the Cromwellian troopers. It calls up the picture of a grim 
Puritan dragoon, iron of countenance and garb. As early 
as 1667 the name was explained from the Cromwellians" 
‘‘head-pieces, back and breast plates of iron.” No doubt 
this helped, but it is not the real truth. The epithet was 
originally ^ applied to Cromwell himself and by the Royal- 
ists. The Oxford Dictionary quotes, from the Mercurius 
Civicus, Sept. 1644, “Lieutenant-General Cromwell, alias 
‘Ironside,’ for that title was given him by Prince Rupert 
after his defeat near York” (i.e. at Marston Moor, July 2, 
1644). According to S. Rawson Gardiner, “It was at 
Pontefract (Aug. 1648) that Cromwell’s men were first 
called by the nickname of ‘ironsides,’ a term which had 
hitherto been appropriated to himself.” 

The nickname redcoat, regularly applied to the British 
soldier * before the khaki age, was also given by the Royal- 
ists to the Parliamentary troops. Finally, the slang use of 
lobster for a redcoat, now understood as alluding to his colour, 
started with the application of this name to Sir Arthur 
Hazelrigg’s regiment of dragoons, “so prodigiously armed 
that they were called by the other side ‘lobsters,’ because 01 
their bright iron shells with which they were covered” 
(Clarendon, History of the Great Rebellion). 

^ I.e. in connection with the Civil War. Ironside was, as already noted, 
in earlier use in the general sense of a tough customer. 

^Bluejiicht is comparatively modern (Marryat). The Tudor word 
was tarpaulin^ 


59 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


Jumper 

Feminine costume has in modem times shown a tendency 
to appropriate some of the less ceremonial garments belong- 
ing to the inferior sex. In the early eighties of last century 
George du Maurier contributed to Punch a drawing which 
appeared at first sight to depict a scene of regrettable marital 
violence, but which, on closer examination, showed the 
mildest and most devoted of husbands assisting his wife to 
divest herself of her jersey,^ an article of clothing then 
recently copied from the footballer, who had borrowed it 
from the fisherman. 

I do not know exactly at what date the blouse succeeded 
t\m jersey* Its proper sense in French is a workman’s upper 
garment, and it is sometimes used symbolically of the pro- 
letariat as contrasted with the black-coated bourgeoisie. 
It is curious that, although the word came into use as re- 
cently as the latter part of the i8th century, its origin is 
quite unknown. 

Much earlier is the female assumption of the petticoat^ 
which, in the Middle Ages, was, as its name implies, a little 
coat, i.e. a kind of waistcoat worn under the doublet or 
armour. Shakespeare is our first clear authority for its use 
as the name of a woman’s under-garment and as an emblem 
of the sex. When, after Tewkesbury, Prince Edward’s 
defiance of the King moves Queen Margaret to wish that 
his father *‘had been so resolved,” Gloucester retorts : 

That you might still have worn the petticoat 
And ne’er have stolen the breech from Lancaster. 

(3 Henry VI, v, 5.) 

The latest male garment annexed by the other sex is the 
jumper. The name has been applied, since the middle of the 
19th century, to a kind of heavy jersey favoured by Polar 

^ So called because originally knitted in Jersey, an island without 
sheep. The football use may have originated at Rugby (see Tom 
Brown’s Schooldays). 

60 



JUMPER 

explorers, sailors and gold-miners. It is a nautical cia- 
boration of jump, a short coat worn in the 1 7th century, 
especially by Presbyterians. This name was also given to a 
kind of bodice, sometimes called a ‘‘pair of jumps The 
word is duly registered by Johnson and defined as “a waist- 
coat; a kind of loose and limber stays worn by sickly ladies.®’ 
It is still in dialect use. 

Jump appears to have been nasalized, under the illogical 
influence of folk-etymology, from the earlier jup, juppe, 
which is Fr. jupe. This French word, now meaning skirt, 
was used in Old French of various male garments. Like 
many other French words now lost to our language (cf. 
gatgon, p. ^i),jupe was quite familiar in Mid. English. It 
was the name of an under-tunic or smock worn by men. It 
was also borrowed by German in the forms juppe, joppe, 
explained by Ludwig as “a jupo, jacket or jump.” 

The origin of the French word is historically interesting. 
The Crusaders, half-cooked in their metal casing, borrowed 
from the Arabs the cotton jubbah,, which, in the iormjihbah, 
is now familiar in English books describing Eastern scenes 
or the habits of the strong, silent sheikh. The popularity 
of the garment is attested by its adoption in ail the Romance 
languages; with Fr. jupe cf. It. giubba and Sp. aljuba, ‘‘a 
Moorish cassocke or frocke” (Minsheu, 1599), the Spanish 
form retaining the Arabic definite article. In ail the Rom- 
ance languages we also find the diminutive form, repre- 
sented in French by jupon, a petticoat. This was in the 
Middle Ages both a light surcoat worn over armour and a 
rough or padded garment worn under armour. Chaucer 
says of the Knight : 

Of fustian he wcred a gypon [var, jopoun] 

A 1 bismotercd with his habergeon, 

For he was late y-come from his viage. 

(Prologue, i. 73.) 

It will have been noticed that every garment so far men- 
tioned represents a conquest rent by the female from the 

61 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

male. No lady wore knickers ^ in the 19th century^ or, if she 
did, the Oxford Dictionary has modestly refrained from 
putting the fact on record. Like the proverbial criminal, 
woman began by robbing the medieval warrior of his 
equipment and has ended by appropriating the most essen- 
tial garment of the defenceless urchin. 

One more possible derivative o^jupe remains to be men- 
tioned. Another Old French diminutive, jupeau^ was 
adopted in 17th-century English as gippOy with the same 
sense 2&jump (p. 61). Gippo became also a nickname for a 
varlet, presumably from his wearing such a garment, just as 
a page-boy is sometimes called “buttons.” In all proba- 
bility it is to this gippo that we owe the Cambridge ^ gypy a 
college servant. 

Kaiser 

In the most brilliant of his letters, Paul-Louis Courier, 
referring contemptuously to Bonaparte’s assumption of the 
imperial title, concludes, “Ce Cesar Pentendait bien mieux, 
et aussi c’etait un autre homme. II ne prit point de titres 
us^s, mais il fit de son nom m^me un titre sup6rieur k celui 
de roi.” 

The name Caesar passed into the Teutonic languages in 
the age of Augustus, i.e. about the beginning of the Chris- 
tian era. We find Goth, kaisary Old High Ger. keisety and 
Anglo-Sax. cdsercy all used in the sense of Roman Emperor, 
the Romance languages preferring the derivatives of Lat, 
imperaior (Fr. empereury It. imperatorey Sp. emperador). The 
earliest English record of the word is in King Alfred’s 

^ Knickerbockers date from the illustrations to Di.edrich Knickerbocker’s 
(i.e. Washington Irving’s) History of Old New York (1809). Pantaloons 
are from the costume of one of the companions of Hadeqtdn (p. 46), 
represented as a Venetian dotard. 

® I have come across an “Oxford in a novel. Possibly he was an 
interested spectator of that historic race when “aU rowed fast, but none 
30 fast as stroke.” 

6a 



KAISER 


translation of Boethius. It is interesting to note that this 
was the first word to be adopted by the Teutons from LatiUj 
and that, after a life of about two thousand years, it is now 
presumably extinct. 

Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West in 800, 
but his title was of course the Fr. empereur. The first Ger- 
man Kaiser was Otto I, crowned by the Pope in 962 as 
^®Roman Emperor of the German nation.’’ The Holy 
Roman Empire came to an end in 1806 with the abdication 
of Francis II of Austria, to be revived, with a new centre of 
gravity, in i-Syi, when the King of Prussia was proclaimed 
German Emperor at Versailles. 

From German the word passed, in the Middle Ages, into 
the Slavonic languages, and was formally assumed as the 
Russian Imperial title by Ivan IV in 1547. The old Slavo- 
nic form cesare (as in ceSarewitch has been reduced to ezdf 
or tsar (the French spelling), and its German origin is still 
reflected in the feminine czarina^ from Ger. zorin^ with the 
Teutonic feminine suffix, cognate with Lat. •ina (as in 
regina)^ which in English survives only in vixen^ the old 
feminine of fox. The Russian feminine form appears in the 
Anglicized isaritsa, 

A curious parallel to this adoption of a personal name as 
the title of a ruler is furnished by Russ. korol\ a king, from 
Old Slav, kral^ which is taken from the name of Carolus 
Magnus or Charlemagne. And, to pursue the ups and 
downs of word-life a little farther, this famous name is 
simply the Ger. kerly fellow, “churl,” made into a personal 
name in the same way that Gr. ycwpyo?, a husbandman, 
lit. earth-worker, has given us George. 

No figure in history has ever loomed so large in the 
European imagination as Charlemagne. He has even been 
introduced into astronomy. ArcturuSy originally one star, 

^ Hence the race established at Newmarket in 1839 and named from 
the Russian prince, afterwards Alexander II, who was paying a State 
visit to England. 

63 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

but often applied to the constellation Bootes, is Gr. 
lApKTovpos, from ap^ros, bear, and ovpos, guardian, because 
of its position behind the Bear. Chaucer calls it arctour 
and Wyclif atiure^ so that it is not extraordinary 
that it should have been confused with King Arthur. 
In medieval romance the legends and exploits of the mythi» 
cal Arthur were apt to be attached to the historical Charle- 
magne, so that a star, vaguely associated with the one, was 
in the end annexed by the other. Already in Anglo-Saxon, 
Bootes, i.e. the ox-driver, waggoner, is carles-Wiggn^ the 
churFs wain. In Mid. English this ‘‘churl, of which the 
northern equivalent was “carl,” was confused with 
Charlemagne and the constellation became “Charle- 
maynes Wayne,” or ‘^Charles’s Wain.” 

One more metamorphosis of Charlemagne may be noted. 
His fame extended to Scandinavia and Iceland, which 
made him a saga hero under the half Latinized name 
Karla-magnus, The Latin adjective was treated as a proper 
name and given in baptism to the son of Olaf II of 
Norway, known to history as St. Olaf, who died in 1029. 
This prince became King Magnus Barefoot of Norway and 
equalled his father’s fame, with the result that his name be- 
came a favourite throughout the regions in which Old Norse 
was spoken. Magnusson is still one of the commoner 
Icelandic names and is reduced in the Orkneys and Shet- 
lands to Manson. An important part of the population of 
Ireland was Norse, ^ so it is not surprising to find Magnus in 
early use as a baptismal name in that island, where it is still 
represented by the patronymic Macmanus. 

Kidnap 

Carlyle, in his Oliver Cromwell, makes use of the verb to 
harbadose, which, under the Commonwealth, meant to 
transport convicts as plantation slaves to Barbados. The 

^ *Tt was the Nonemen who really made Dublin the capita! city 
of Ireland** (Mawer, The Vikings, p. 121). 

64 



KIDNAP 


great Oliver sent a particularly large consignment after the 
massacre at Drogheda. These unfortunates were later 
known as '‘twenty-pounders,” from the usual price at 
which they were bought by the planters (see Stevenson, 
Kidnapped, ch. 5). There were also unofficial sources of 
supply, the chief collecting centres being London and 
Bristol, where the agents were known, as early as 1645, 
“spirits.” Littleton has plagiarius ^ : a man-steaier, a 
spirit, who steals other mens children or servants; per 
synecd^ he who steals or filches out of other mens writings.” 
Hence our verb to “spirit away,” which was earlier simply 
to “spirit.” In 1674 issued a Royal Proclamation 
against “the frequent abuses of a lewd sort of people called 
‘spirits’ in seducing many of H.M. subjects to go on ship- 
board, where they have been seized and carried by force to 
PI.M. plantations in America.” Of about the same date as 
spirit is the verb to trepan^ earlier irapatiy originally a name in 
rogues’ slang for a decoy, and probably connected with 
trap. 

Both spirit and trepan were soon supplanted in favour by a 
new verb. In 1693 Increase Mather wrote of “a servant 
who was spirited or ‘kidnapt’ (as they call it) into Amer- 
ica,” and Bunyan uses kidnap in The Pilgrim’s Progress. 
The earliest record is in Phillips: kidnappers: those that make 
a trade of decoying and ‘spiriting away’ young children to 
ship them for foreign plantations.” Such children were 
known in North America as kids. During the i8th century 
kidnap retained this special sense . Slavery in North America 
was the fate intended by his uncle for David Balfour, and is 
the motif of many other adventure stories. 

Although kidnap was used in 1925 of the temporary 
segregation of an adult Communist, we still associate the 
word especially with children, and, after the serious unem- 
ployment among rum-runners and hi-jackers caused by the 
repeal of the American Prohibition Act, the “kidnapping,” 
1 From Lat. plaga^ a net. 


65 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

more simpiy described as * ‘snatching^ of rich people^s 
children became an important industry in the States. 

Kid, a child, was originally ‘^iow slang,’’ according 
to the Oxford Dictionary, which identifies it with kid^ a 
young goat. As our ‘‘low slang” is partly of German and 
Flemish origin, I am inclined to think that the Dutch and 
German word kind,^ child, has something to do with it. 
The second element is the “low slang” nap, to snatch, now 
replaced by nab. The Dictionary of the Canting Crew 
(c. 1700) explains “nap the wiper” by “steal the handker- 
chief.” Kap is probably of Scandinavian origin; cf. Dan. 
nappe, to snatch. That “kidnapping” was an essentially 
English industry is clear from the evidence of the early 
dictionaries, e.g. ^^kinderdiebe in England: plagiaries, spirits 
or kidnappers; people that would kidnap or spirit away 
children in England ; people that drive a trade of children, 
inticing ’em away to sell ’em, in order to be transported to 
the plantations in America” (Ludwig). 

Lion-hnnter 

At Oxford and Cambridge, up to the time of Mr. 
Verdant Green, titled undergraduates were distinguished 
from the untitled by a gold tassel, or “tuft,” attached to 
their caps. The word tuft * thus became a nickname for 
these privileged young men, and their sycophants or 
toadies ® were called tuft-hunters. 

I imagine that it was on the model of tuft-hunter, connot- 
ing social snobbishness, that the 19th century coined lion- 

^ Cf. kinchin, from the German dim. kindchen : “The kinchins, my dear,” 
said Fagin, “is the young children that’s sent on errands by their 
mothers, with sixpences and shillings; and the lay is just to take their 
money away ” (Oliver Twist, ch. 42). 

® Ti^t is for older tuff, from Fr. totffe (Old Fr. toffe). It is probable 
that the earlier form survives in the slang word toff. 

® Toady is for toad-eater, originally the conjuror’s zany, who amused 
the crowd by pretending to swallow toads, snakes, etc. Fr. avaleur de 
couleuvres, snake-swallower, has the same literal and figurative senses. 

66 



LION-HUNTER 


hunter to describe a special type of female snob, the kind of 
hostess who is in despair if unable to exhibit to her friends 
the latest celebrity or stunt-monger. 

The Oxford Dictionary’s first record for lion-hunter is from 
Carlyle (1840), who uses it in connection with the unfor- 
tunate ® lionizing” of Burns; but it must have been in 
colloquial use at an earlier date, judging from the name 
(1837) of “Mrs. Leo Hunter,”^ at whose fancy-dress fite 
champitre the Pickwickians appeared, Mr. Tupman wearing 
that “green velvet jacket, with a two-inch tail” that so 
nearly led to a pugilistic encounter with Mr. Pickwick 
(Pickwick Papers, ch. i6). 

The “lion” pursued by the lion-hunter is, according to 
Thackeray, “a man or woman one must have at one’s 
parties.” This sense dates from c. 1700. At an earlier 
period the “lions” were, as they still are, the remarkable 
buildings, curious objects, etc., of any locality. Originally 
they were the royal lions ^ kept at the Tower of London. 
These animals were naturally regarded as likely to amaze 
and interest the country cousin, and were usually among the 
first London sights exhibited to him. As early as the i6th 
century “to have seen the lions” implied being no raw 
novice, but a person quite “up to snuff.” In the time of 
Pepys the Tower lions were still a spectacle of surpassing 
interest: “I took them and all my ladys to the Tower and 
showed them the lions and all that was to be shown” 
(May 3, 1662). 

Magazine 

An intelligence test on a hundred modern children would, 
I suppose, show, as the immediate reaction of 99 per cent. 

^ For the identity of this lady see Miss Hcsselgrave’s Lady Miller and 
the Batheaston Literary Circle (Oxford, 1927). 

® lions seem to have been very usual presents to potentates. On Jan. 
1 1, 1681-2, Evelyn saw the audience given by Their Majesties to the 
ambassadors of Morocco : “Their presents were lions and ostriches.” 

67 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

to the soimd of this word, the mental picture of a paper 
cover adorned by the figure of a shapely damsel, in a cos*- 
tume, or lack of costume, more or less appropriate to the 
season. This literary sense of the word is, however, only 
about two centuries old, and the shapely damsel, still absent 
from the serious and historic magazines, is merely a symp“ 
tom of the wider appeal which results from the existence of 
an educated democracy. 

A magazine is a store-house, now usually associated with 
gunpowder, but in the 1 6th century with any kind of goods. 
Fr. magasin is still a warehouse, though, from being applied 
to the great multiple stores, it has come to be a polite sub- 
stitute for boutique, a shop. 

Magazine, like arsenal (It. arsenale, Arab al-sinaak, the 
workshop) , is a reminder of the power once exercised by the 
Arabs over the Mediterranean. It is Arab, makhaztn, the 
plural of makhzdn, a warehouse, from khazana, to store up. 
It reached us via Fr. magasin or It. magazzino. Sp. almacen 
preserves, like many other Spanish words, the Arabic 
definite article aL Torriano has magazzino: a ware-house, 
a store-house, a magizine,’’ and ^^magazzino (Tartegliaria: an 
arsenall or store-house for artillerie,’’ a sense which eventu- 
ally became predominant in English. 

Introduced by the 16th-century travellers and merchant- 
venturers, the word was, as early as Ben Jonson, used in the 
figurative sense of treasury, intellectual wealth. In 1731 
appeared the first number of The Gentleman’s Magazine, 
described in the Introduction as “a monthly collection to 
treasure up, as in a magazine, the most remarkable pieces 
on the subjects above-mentioned.” This was imitated in 
the names of later rival publications, so that magazine 
eventually became a vague term for a periodical. 

The more purely literary review is of earlier date. Appar- 
ently the title was first used in English by Defoe, who began 
the publication of The Review when in prison in 1704 and 
continued it till its suppression in 1713. The Annual 
68 



MONITOR 


Register (established in 1758) aimed at '"uniting the plan 
of the magazines and that of the reviews.” 

Monitor 

The Illustrated London News for April 5, 1862, has an 
alarmist article headed “The Naval Revolution.” The 
greater part of the front page on which the article begins is 
taken up with a picture of a weird-looking iron monster 
crashing into the side of an old-fashioned wooden frigate. 
This monster was the Merrimac, originally a United States 
frigate, which the Federais, evacuating Norfolk after the 
secession of Virginia, had partly burnt, and which the 
Confederates had armoured with railway metals so as to 
make of her a kind of heavy-gun floating battery with a 
penthouse cupola. On March 8, 1862, this vessel, renamed 
the Virginia, emerged from the Confederate Navy Yard at 
Norfolk and proceeded to wipe out the squadron of five 
Federal frigates lying off Fort Monroe and in Hampton 
Roads. Having done this pretty effectually and without 
loss, she returned to Norfolk. 

But the Federais had also been experimenting, and on the 
evening of the same day a new visitor appeared in the same 
waters. This was Captain Ericsson’s Monitor i “Some 
months previously a Swedish engineer, already highly 
esteemed for his various inventions, had, though with some 
difficulty, persuaded the Federal Government to allow him 
to build a small floating sea-going battery, and had made 
himself, or his friends, pecuniarily responsible for its success. 
It was begun in October, launched on New Year’s Day, 
and completely finished in ten days after. And we beg our 
readers to note the time as well as the cost involved — sixty 
thousand pounds” (Ulus. Lond. News, loc. cit.). 

The Monitor was small compared with the Merrimac. 
She had a deck almost flush with the water and w^as armed 
only with two heavy Dahlgren guns carried in a revolving 

69 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


turret. Tlie combat was indecisive, each commander 
claiming that it was his opponent who first turned tail, and 
not a man was killed on either side. But the first iron-clad 
fight in history had taken place, and the Illustrated 
London News, quoting the Times, wants to know what 
the Government is going to do about it: “Whereas we had 
available for immediate purposes 149 first-class war-ships, 
we have now two, these two being the Warrior and her 
sister Ironside.’’ ^ A fortnight later the Illustrated London 
News has a portrait of Captain Gowper Philip Coles ® and a 
diagram showing his scheme for cutting down a three- 
decker and converting it into a “shield-ship.” 

The name Monitor was given by Ericsson himself. Here 
are his own words in a letter: “The iron-clad intruder will 
thus prove a severe monitor to these leaders. , . . On 
these and similar grounds I propose to name the new 
battery Monitor.” It was at once adopted for the par- 
ticular type of vessel of which the Monitor was the first 
example. 

Very much the same thing happened later in the case of 
Dreadnought This rather assertive name was borne by one 
of Queen Elizabeth’s ships, and has been in naval use ever 
since. In 1 906 it was given to a new all-big-gun ship, and 
at once became, like monitor^ a generic name. 

Nightmare 

In connection with the word mop (p. 170) I comment 
incidentally on the gradual transformation of Queen Mab 
from a grisly hag into a pantomime fairy,® As late 
1627, Drayton tells us that — 

^ The only English armoured ships then launched were the Warrior 
and the Black Prince. 

® The designer of the ill-fated Captain, on which he went down in 
1870 off Cape Finistfere. 

® Cf. an heggc (« hag) or fayrie” (Cooper). 


70 



NIGHTMARE 


Mabj his (Oberon’s) meery queens by night 
Bestrids young folks that lye upright, 

(In elder times the mare that hight,) 

Which plagues them out of measure. 

(Nymphidia, vii, 53.) 

Johnson records this archaic mare^ and explains it as “a kind 
of torpor or stagnation, which seems to press the stomach 
with a weight; the night-hag.” ^ The oldest English record 
of the word is Anglo-Sax. mare^ explained in a yth-centnry 
glossary as incuha^ i.e. an incumbent hag. The compound 
nightmare does not appear till the 13 th century. The 
Promptorium Parvulorum (1440) gives "^mare or uygih-^ 
mare: epialtes,” i.e. Gr. €<t>taXT 7 }<s^ nightmare, supposed 
to mean originally ^‘one leaping upon.” The simple mare 
sthl survives in dialect. 

When the comic artist depicts the nightmare^ he usually 
represents it as a kind of equine monstrosity. It has even 
been, rather improbably, suggested that in Edgar’s crazy 
song: 

Swithold footed thrice the old (=wold) ; 

He met the night-mare and her nine-fold. 

(Lear, iii, 5.) 

‘‘nine^fbld” may be an error for ‘‘nine foals.” At any rate 
the mare of nightmare has been popularly apprehended in the 
familiar zoological sense of the word, not only in English, 
but also in Dutch, which has substituted nachtmerrie (merrie 
= female horse) for the older nachtmaar, in which the 
second component is supposed to mean “demon.” This 
would be, illogically enough, assisted by the fact that in 
early records the nightmare is described as “riding’* its 
victims. A similar inverted kind of logic has given us 
bedridden for Mid. Eng. bedride^ i.e. a “bed-rider.” 

The same word is found in other Teutonic languages, e.g. 
Old Norse mara and archaic Ger. mahr. The latter is 
usually replaced in modern German by *‘^alp {dienachtmdhre): 
the nightmare, a nocturnal choking one suffers lying abed 
^ Gf. hag-ridden. 


71 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

asleep” (Ludwig) . This alp^ the first cousin of our elf^^ was 
regularly used by the less confident German newspapers to 
describe the oppression weighing on their country during 
World War 1 5 and as regularly rendered in English news- 
papers by Alp^ as though indicating a superincumbency 
of a mountainous nature! Corresponding to our elf-lock^ 
plaited in the manes of horses by malevolent sprites^ we find 
Dan. marelok and Ger. inakrjlechte (from flechten^ to plait). 
The English compound is first recorded in Mercutio’s 
famous fantasy: 

This is that very Mab 
That plaits the manes of horses in the night. 

And bakes the elf-locks in foul sluttish hairs, 

Which, once untangled, much misfortune bodes. 

(Romeo and Juliet, i, 4.) 

The ultimate origin of mare is unsolved. Its regular 
association with “oppression” has suggested connection 
with Old Norse merja^ to crush, but the existence of Old 
Slav, mora^ witch, whence Russ, mora^ nightmare, and of Pol. 
mara, spectre, makes Slavonic origin possible. It is prob- 
able that Old Ir. morrigan^ elf-queen, is also related. 

At an early date the word passed into French. In Old 
French we find mare^ fabulous monster, whence cauquemare, 
chauchemare^ etc., now cauchemar^ nightmare, of which the 
first element is from Lat. calcar to trample, from calx^ heel. 

^ An elf and an oaf seem to be very unlike, but the words are identical, 
oafbeing from the Old Norse form. It took its present meanii^ via that 
of changeling brought by the elves, hence a clumsy, half-witted child. 
Spenser’s (or E. K.’s) “etymology’^’ of elf is almost worthy of a modern 
“correspondence column” : “The soothe is that when all Italy was dis- 
tract into the factions of the Guelfes and the Gibelyns, being two famous 
houses in Florence, the name began through their great mischiefes and 
many outrages to be so odious or rather dreadfull in the peoples cares, 
that, if their children at any time were froward and wanton, they would 
say to them that the Guelfe or the Gibclync came. Which words now 
from them be come into our usage, and, for Guelfes and Gibelyns, we 
say Elfes and Goblyns” (Shepherd’s Calendar, June). 

72 



PAGAN 


I should like to suggest to my etymological betters the 
possibility that the popular association of the nightmare 
with the equine mare may in the end be right. The latter 
word is Common Teutonics e.g. Dutch merrie (v.s.), Ger. 
mahre, jadcj Old Norse merr (whence Dan. m£Br)j also 
contemptuous. The corresponding masculine forms are 
Angio-Sax. mearh^ Old High Ger. marah^ Old Norse mart. 
With these cf. Gael, marc and Welsh march, whence the 
name of the Celtic king who had horse’s ears. The root of 
this widespread word is quite unknown. 

There must have been a time when to Western Europeans 
the mounted horse was as startling and trampling an appar- 
ition as it was to the MexicanSj when they encountered the 
Spanish conquistadors. The ‘‘bogy-man” of the Greek 
peasant child is still the centaur. ^ The dreaded Scottish 
kelpie,^ or water-monster, usually appears in equine form, 
and the names Hengest and Horsa, i.e. stallion and mare, of 
the adventurers who first flew the White Horse banner off 
the coast of Britain seem to class the animal with the fan- 
tastic and terrifying beasts of heraldry. 

Pagan 

Most dictionaries give an erroneous explanation of this 
word. It comes, of course, from Lat. pagamis, peasant 
(Jvom. pagus, a village), which in Late Latin took the sense 
represented in the Teutonic languages by heathen and its 
cognates. It appears in English in the 14th century, replac- 
ing the earlier payen, which we had borrowed from Old 
French {mod^vn paien) . This form survives in the surname 
Payn, Payne, 

But why should a peasant be a heathen ? Trench is quite 
clear about it: “The Church fixed itself first in the seats and 

^ See also Theocritus, Idyll 15, for the collocation of fiop^w, bugbear, 
with ImroQ, horse. 

® Perhaps related to Gael, colpach, used of some animals, including 
colt. 


F 


73 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

centres of intelligence, in the towns and cities of the Roman 
Empire; in them its earliest triumphs were won; while, long 
after these had accepted the truth, heathen superstitions 
and* idolatries lingered on in the obscure hamlets and 
villages; so that "‘pagans,” or villagers, came to be ap- 
plied to all the remaining votaries of the old and decayed 
superstitions, although not ail, but only most of them, were 
such. . . . Heathen has run a course curiously similar"® 
(The Study of Words, 29th ed*). 

This theory goes back to the statement of Orosius, a 
Spaniard (fi. c. 300), to the effect that “Ex locorum agres- 
tium compitis et pagis "pagani" vocantur,” i.e. “From the 
cross-roads and villages of the rural regions they are called 
"pagans.® Even the Oxford Dictionary gives the tradi^ 
tional derivation, with a reference to Trench and the 
quotation from Orosius. But, if we turn to the “Additions 
and Emendations,’® we find a full recantation: ""The 
explanation of Lat. pagantis in the sense non-Christian, 
heathen, as arising out of that of villager, rustic, has been 
shown to be chronologically and historically untenable, for 
this use of the word goes back to Tertullian (c. 202), when 
paganism was still the public and dominant religion. . . . 
The explanation is now found in the Latin use of paganus, 
as = non-militant, civilian, opposed to miles, soldier, one of 
the army. The Christians called themselves milites, 
enrolled soldiers of Christ, members of His militant Church, 
and applied to non-Christians the term applied by soldiers 
to all who were not enrolled in the army, Cf. Tertullian, 
De Corona Militis, xi, "Apud hunc [Christum] tarn miles 
est paganus fidelis quam paganus est miles infidelis.® ” 

The erroneous view as to the origin of pagan was definitely 
fixed by Gibbon in his long Note to Ch. 21 of The Decline 
and Fall of the Roman Empire. It is curious that so great 
a scholar should not have seen the implications of his own 
history of the word, for he was quite well aware that 
paganus was a term of contempt in the Roman army. 

74 



PAGAN 


Indeed^ although he alludes to the fact that '^the old re- 
ligion retired and languished in obscure villages/’ he 
almost seems, earlier in his Note, to indicate the true origin 
of the word: ‘"The amazing increase of the military order 
introduced the necessity of a correlative term; and ail the 
people who were not enlisted in the service of the prince 
were branded with the contemptuous epithet of ‘pagan.’ 
The Christians were the soldiers of Christ; their adversaries, 
who refused His sacrament, or military oath of baptism, 
might deserve the metaphorical name of ‘pagans’ and 
this popular reproach was introduced, as early as the reign 
of Valentinian (a.d. 365), into Imperial laws and theo- 
logical writings.” 

At the Battle of Bedriacum (a.d. 69), when the Pre- 
torian guard gave way, their commander apostrophized 
them, according to Tacitus (Hist. Ill, xxiv, 4), as follows; 
“Vos nisi vincitis, pagani, quis alius imperator, quae castra 
alia excipient?” i.e. “Unless you are victorious, you clod- 
hoppers, what other commander or camp will receive you ?” 
Juvenal, describing the privileges and arrogance of the 
soldier, points out that an assaulted and battered civilian 
has little hope of redress : 

Citius falsmn producerc testem 
Contra paganiun possis, quam vera loquentem 
Contra fortunam armati, contraque pudorem.* 

(Sat. xvi.) 

Thus pagan owes its existence and its meaning to the 
Roman Tommy, who applied it to the individual whom the 
French soldier calls and whom Private Mulvaney des- 
cribes as “a lousy civilian.” 

^Cf. Gcssner, in his Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (1747): “Hinc 
pagani a veteribus Ghristianis dicebantur Gentiles, quod Ghristi 
milites non essent.” 

®You could sooner produce a false witness against the civilian 
than anyone to speak the truth against the interests and honour of the 
soldier. 


75 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


Pall-mall 

When Charles II returned from his travels, he intro- 
duced, or at any rate popularized, some sports which had 
been little cultivated under the Puritan regime. For in- 
stance, though skates made of animals’ shin-bones were in 
use as early as the 1 2 th century, as we learn from William Fitz- 
Stephen (f c. 1190), skating as we understand it was due 
to Charles’s sojourn in Holland. On Dec. i, 1662, both 
Pepys and Evelyn record their amazement at the skill of the 
courtiers in St. James’s Park, skating ‘‘after the manner of 
the Hollanders.” PalUMall^ now the name of a street, was 
onge a game. It is of Italian origin, from palla^ a ball, and 
maglio^ a mallet. The first word is of Teutonic origin and 
is identical with our hall\ the second is from Lat. malleus, a 
hammer. English travellers of the i6th century sometimes 
speak of it as palla-malla. It reached us via Old Fr. 
^‘palemaille: a game, wherein a round box bowle is with a 
mallet strucke through a high arch of yrori (standing at 
either end of an alley one) which he that can do at the 
fewest blowes, or at the number agreed on, winnes” 
(Gotgrave) . 

Like other Continental sports (e.g. golf) pall-mall reached 
Scotland first. In 1568 the unfortunate Mary Stuart not 
only limited her “dule” for Darnley to eight days, instead 
of the orthodox forty, but was also seen, during that period, 
playing one day “richt opponlie at feildis with the palmall 
and goif.” ^ 

Blount, writing in 1656, copies Cotgrave’s definition, and 
adds, “This game was heretofore used at the alley near St. 
Jameses, and vulgarly called Pel-Mel,” the “heretofore” 
suggesting that this frivolity had been suppressed under the 
Commonwealth. At any rate, it was only after the Re- 
storation that Pepys saw it played: “So I into St. James’s 
Park, where I saw the Duke of York playing at pele- 
^ Calendar of Scottish Papers, P* 55^. 


76 



PALL-MALL 


inele, the first time that ever I saw the sport” (April 2, 

i66i). 

Evelyn, in his travels, usually made a point of visiting the 
pall-tnalls or malls of the chief French towns, and sometimes 
playing ®‘a party or two.” Thus, at Blois, in 1644: 
Sunday, being May-day, we walked up into Pall-Mall, very 
long, and so nobly shaded with tali trees (being in the 
midst of a great wood), that, unless that of Tours, I had not 
seen a statelier.” Many old French towns ha-'e a shaded 
walk called the Mail. Anatole France’s L’Orme du Mail 
would be, in English, The Elm-tree on the Mali. 

When the Pall-Mall developed into a residential street, 
the new Mall was constructed in the Park itself. Waller 
has an idiotic poem on the subject : 

Here, a well-polished Mali gives us tlie joy 
To sec our Prince his matchless force employ; 

His manly posture and his graceful mien, 

Vigour and youth, in all his motions seen, 

His shape so lovely and his limbs so strong, 

Confirm our hopes we shall obey him long. 

No sooner has he touched the flying ball, 

But ’tis already more than half the Mall ; 

And such a fury from lus arm has got 
As from a smoking culverin it were shot. 

(On St. James’s Park as lately improved by His Majesty.) 

One inhabitant of the Pall-Mall was Nell Gwyn, whose 
house stood on the south side overlooking the new MalL 
The correct Evelyn regretfully witnessed an interview be- 
tween this lady and King Charles, the latter’s name being 
disguised in the Diary by the decent obscurity of asterisks : 
‘T thence walked with him through St. James’s Park to the 
garden, where I both saw and heard a very familiar dis- 
course between * * * and Mrs. Nelly, as they called an 
impudent comedian, she looking out of her garden on a 
terrace at the top of the wall, and * * * standing on 
the green walk under it. I was heartily sorry at this 
scene.” 


77 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


Philistine ^ 

The Oxford Dictionary defines a philistine as "a person 
deficient in liberal culture and enlightenment, whose inter- 
ests are chiefly bounded by material and commonplace 
things,’® with the corollary, “but often applied contemptu- 
ously by connoisseurs of any particular art or department of 
learning to one who has no knowledge or appreciation of 
it; sometimes a mere term of dislike for those whom the 
speaker considers bourgeois.” The general equivalence to 
some minds of bourgeois and philistine is curiously illustrated in 
a quotation from the late Mr. Trotsky’s book on the late Mr. 
Lenin, which I cull from the Daily Express (March 30, 
1925). It appears that, when the latter met Mr. H. G. 
Wells, he realized “his pompous self-satisfaction, his narrow- 
ness, his civilized haughtiness, and his civilized ignorance,” 
and, having taken in this picture, he shook his head a long 
time and said, “What a philistine ! What a monstrous little 
bourgeois ! ” 

This English use of philistine is due chiefly to Carlyle and 
Matthew Arnold, both of whom make use of it repeatedly, 
though perhaps they do not give it exactly the same sense. 
Both of them had a spiritual home, or, at least, an intellec- 
tual pied-h-terre, in Germany, a land which, in the middle of 
the 19th century, attracted many English minds weary of 
contemplating the blatant prosperity of their own country 
and that insufferable complacency born of easy wealth that 
made Matthew Arnold exclaim,^ “Philistinism ! We have 
not the expression in English. Perhaps we have not the 
word because we have so much of the thing.” 

Through what vicissitudes did the name of a Ganaanitish 
tribe pass in order to end up as a natural description of Mr. 
Podsnap ? The use of the names of savage tribes, such as 

^ See Kluge, Wortforschung und Wortgeschichte, pp. 20-44. 

® Essay on Heine. 


78 



PHILISTINE 


Goth and Vandal, in the vague sense of uncultivated 
barbarian, is common. The Roundheads sometimes des- 
cribed the Cavaliers as Amalekites. In the 17th century 
Philistines were in English “serjeants, bailiffs, and their 
crew” (Dictionary of the Canting Grew, c. 1700), and also 
“drunkards and lewd fellows.” In Germany, at the same 
period, and especially at Jena, die philister were the towns- 
men as opposed to the gownsmen. 

It seems possible that the name was^ originally applied at 
Jena to the town-guard, with which disorderly students 
were apt to come in conflict. These watchmen were no 
doubt, like policemen, hefty fellows, and their nickname 
was a direct allusion to Goliath, for we find the German 
word philister used as a colloquialism for a tall man earlier 
than its first record in university slang. The later applica- 
tion to the townee has a curious parallel in spiesshurger^ a 
narrow-minded bourgeois, literally a burgess armed with a 
pike, i.e. a town-guardsman, contemptuously used by 
German students for a townsman many years before 
philister turns up in a similar sense. 

The story generally received in Germany, a story re- 
corded early in the i8th century, is that a Jena student was 
killed by townsmen in a brawl in 1689, that the Rector of 
the University preached his funeral seimon on the text, 
“Die Philister fiber dir, Simson!” (Judges xvi. 9), and that 
philister thus became in Jena a recognized nickname for a 
townsman, and was adopted gradually by the other Ger- 
man universities. There is probably some truth in this 
story, though the most thorough research has not succeeded 
in actual verification. It is quite certain that the word 
philister was in use at Jena for a member of the town-guard a 
few years before the date to which tradition assigns the 
murder, so that, if the sermon was really preached, the text 
was no doubt selected with deliberate intent. Anyhow, the 
meaning of philister in student language of the 1 8th and 1 9th 
centuries is rather contemptuous than hostile. It corrcs- 

79 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

ponds pretty closely with the use of bourgeois ^ among French 
students. 

The modern sense of the word is partly due to GoethCj 
who repeatedly uses it, in letters and conversations, of the 
commonplace man without imagination or sense of mys- 
tery. Goethe, to whom the word was of course familiar in 
its established university sense, seems to have given it this 
new connotation at the time of his closest intimacy with 
Herder, and possibly under his influence. Schiller also 
adopted the word with eagerness, and it is to him rather 
than to Goethe that is due its general acceptance in the 
sense in which we now understand it. 

Its introduction into literature proper belongs to 1797, 
the year in which Goethe and Schiller ran amok among 
contemporary authors with their ‘‘Xenien,” or epigrams, 
which were sent forth with the injunction, “Fort ins land 
der Philister, ihr fuchse mit brennenden schwanzen.” ^ 
Before Goethe’s death (in 1832) Carlyle had used philistine 
and philistinism in Sartor Resartus, but it was Matthew 
Arnold who gave the word its real currency. 

Pikestaff 

One of the most charming features of the modern Ameri- 
can language is its great wealth of unexpected and hyper- 
bolical simile. It would occur to few of us to describe a 
candidate as having about as much chance as an ice-cream- 
freezer in hell, or to liken a hesitating speaker to a stuffed 
frog with laryngitis. No simile illustrating ‘‘plainness” has 
more vogue, even now, than “as plain as a pikestaff,” the 
use of which involves probably in most people’s minds a 
double misapprehension. 

^ Francisque Sarcey puts into the mouth of an old ‘‘Bohemian” the 
definition, “Les philistins sont Ics derniers des hommes, des cretins, des 
goitreux et, pour tout dire d*un seul mot, des bourgeois.” 

* Forth into the land of the Philistines, ye foxes with burning tails. 
See Judges xv. 4. 

80 



PIKESTAFF 


®Tiaiii as a pikestaff’' (^590 as an earlier equivalent 
®*plairi as a packstaff” (1542) : 

The ant hath circumspection, ye have none; 

You packstaff plain, the ant crafty and close. 

(Hcyw'ood, The Spider and the Fly.) 

We also find ‘‘plain as a packsaddle” (1553). The figure 
did not originally refer to the obviousness” of the pack- 
staff, but to its simplicity as compared with the numerous 
official staves borne by functionaries and adorned with 
appropriate emblems. The packstaff was carried by the 
pedlar and used as a support when he opened his pack for 
inspection, while the pikestaffs which now suggests the shaft 
of a pike or heavy spear, meant for Piers Plowman the long 
ironshod staff of the wayfarer, a kind of alpenstock. Edie 
Ochiltree, in Scott’s Antiquary, still carried a pikestaff at the 
beginning of the 19th century. It is evident that either 
packstaff or pikestaff would contrast in “plainness” with such 
symbols of office as that which Mr, Grummer flourished 
before Sam Weller’s eyes: “ *Ah’ said Sam, ‘it’s wery 
pretty, ’specially the crown, which is uncommon like the 
real one’ ” (Pickwick, ch. 24). 

Thackeray writes of “calling a pikestaff a pikestaff” as a 
variation on “calling a spade a spade.” This phrase also 
perpetuates a mistake. The Greeks used “figs” and 
“bowls” as emblems of plain speaking: Ta crwa o-v/ca, 
crKat^rjv Sc crKa<^7?j/ (Lucian). Plutarch tells us of 

Philip: "X^aLOvs <l>vara Kal dypOLKOvs eTvat MaKcSoVa?, Kal 

Tr}V aKd<j>T)v (TKadirjv Xcyovra? (Moralia, 178 B). XKd(f> 7 } from 
(TKaTTr^iv, to dig, was used of anything hollowed out, 
e.g. a trough, bowl, dug-out canoe. Erasmus, translating 
Plutarch, confused the word, by an oversight, with (rKa<f>€Loys 
a spade, another derivative of (rKaTrrctv, and rendered it 
by Lat. ligo, a spade or mattock. Accordingly Udall, 
translating Erasmus (1542), wrote, “Phiiippus considered 
that the Macedonians were feloes of no fyne witte in their 
termes, but altogether grosse, clubbyshe (= clownish) and 

81 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

rusticallj as they whiche had not the witte to calle a spade 
by any other name than a spade/’ and popular speech has 
perpetuated the error. 

Pipe 

The Romans had a verb pipare^ or pipiare^ to pipe, cheep, 
like a young bird. It is obviously an onomatopoeic word, 
like the synonymous Eng. peepy Ger. piepsen, Fr, pipier. 
These are not borrowed from Latin, but created in their 
respective languages by the same imitative instinct ; c£ 
also Gr. rnTr^rt^cti/, From this verb must have been evolved 
a noun pipa^ presumably applied to the fowler’s little reed 
whistle or bird-call. This is one of the cases in which a 
comparison of the existing derivatives enables us to assume 
with certainty the existence of a Latin colloquial word of 
which there is no written record. The original sense of 
the word appears in Fr. pipeauy a bird-call,^ piper , to allure, 
swindle, pipie^ the art of deceiving birds by artificial calls. 
^‘On ne prend pas les vieux oiseaux a la pipee” corresponds 
to our “Old birds are not caught with chaff.’^ 

The essential shrillness of the pipe as compared with other 
wind instruments is still exemplified in the boatswain’s 
pipe, which is a whistle, and in “piping hot,” which refers to 
viands still sizzling : 

He sente hire pyraent, meeth and spiced ale, 

And wa&es, pipyng hoot out of the glecde (hot embers) 

(Chaucer, A. 3378.) 

As a musical instrument the pipe was associated in English 
with peace and pastoral happiness. Shakespeare contrasts 
with war’s stern alarums “this weak, piping time of peace” 
(Richard III, i, i). It was especially the concomitant of 
the dance, e.g. “We have piped ^ unto you and ye have not 

^ Also used, by a not mmatural transition of sense, for a limed twig, 
Fipeau is a diminutive of the older pipe, the musical sense of which is 
obsolete in French. 

* Vulgate cantammiis tibiis, from tibia, flute, shin-bone, whence Fr. iige, 
stem. 

82 



PIPE 


danced’® (Luke vii. 32), and the question of “paying the 
piper” sometimes led to difficulties. 

Compounds of the pipe are hornpipe and bagpipe. The 
former was a pipe elaborated by means of a horn mouth- 
piece. “Horne pipes of Gornewaile” are mentioned in the 
Romaunt of the Rose ( 1 . 4250). Later it became the name 
of a dancCj especially in connection with sailors’ merry- 
makings. The association of the bagpipe with Scotland is, so 
far as the name is concerned, comparatively modern. The 
Gaels borrowed from English as piob, from which is de- 
rived piobair, piper, and piobaireachd, the art of playing the 
pipes, Anglice pibroch. But the bagpipe (cf. Ger. sackpfeife) 
was an old instrument in England. We know that the 
Miller “piped” the Canterbury Pilgrims out of town, and 
that Falstaff on one occasion was “as melancholy as the 
drone of a Lincolnshire bagpipe” (i Henry IV, i, 2). 

The “pied piper,” who lured the rats from Hamelin, 
was a Ger. pfeifer, for the word penetrated into German at a 
very early date.^ This is shown by the initial pf-, pointing 
to adoption before the second (i.e. High German) “sound- 
shifting”; cf. Ger. pfiasteTy plaster, pfeffer^ pepper, pfeil, 
arrow (from Lat. pilum, dart). The Ger. pfeife came into 
English in the 1 5th century. It was sometimes called the 
“Almain (i.e. German) whistle.” We have made it into 
fife, with essentially warlike associations. The following 
16th-century passage shows a transition form between 
pfeife and fife: “Forthwith came a French man being a phi- 
pher, in a little boate, playing on his phiph the tune of the 
Prince of Orenge his song” (Hakluyt, x, 129). 

The musical sense ofpipa passed into all the Romance and 
Teutonic languages, but it is in English that the other de- 
rived senses are by far the most numerous. Fr. pipe is now 
little used, except in the sense of tobacco-pipe. This may 
have developed from the general idea of tube, but I fancy it 

^ Also into the other Teutonic languages, c.g. Dutch ptjp, Old Norse 
pipa. 


83 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

was originally a witticism, the smoking implement being 
compared to a musical instrument held in the mouth. 
Otherwise we could hardly explain the similar use of 
Ger. pfeife^ which never acquired the general meaning 
of tube and is used only of a flute or whistle and a 
tobacco-pipe.^ 

It is in English only that pipe has taken that general 
sense of tube, hollow cylinder, which is expressed in French 
by tuyau and in German by rohre (from rohr, reed). This 
sense appears already in Anglo-Saxon and has ramified in an 
extraordinary way. The various tubular metamorphoses of 
pipe are, with one exception, easy to trace. The exception 
is the “Pipe Rolls,'' the great Exchequer Rolls, in which are 
summarized the “pipes," or accounts, of the sheriffs and 
others. We have these Rolls preserved from the 12th cen- 
tury onward, and pipe^ an account, is well recorded in the 
Anglo-French legal language. Bacon gives a figurative 
explanation of “that office of Her Majesty's Exchequer, 
which we, by a metaphor, do call the Pipe, because the 
whole receipt is finally conveyed into it by means of divers 
small pipes or quills." But neither metaphor nor drainage 
had, in the 12th century, attained the refinement which 
would have made such a figure natural. It is more likely 
that we have here one more of the innumerable senses of 
pipe, cylinder, which might be easily and naturally applied 
to a rolled-up parchment. 

Combining the musical and tubular senses is the applica- 
tion of pipe to the throat or windpipe. We can still speak of 
a singer as having a “sweet pipe," and athletes apply the 
name “pipe-opener" to the burst of speed which gets the 
lungs into going order before the race. Whistle is used 
similarly of the throat, and the expression “to wet one’s 
whistle" is as old as Chaucer: “So was hir joly whistle 
wel y-wet (A. 4155). 

^ German also has pfeife, large cask, our pipe (of port) ; cf. Fr. pipe. It. 
pippa, ^^.pipa. 

84 



PUNCH 


Puncli 

Punchinello came to us at the Restoration. He was intro- 
duced by an Italian puppet-player, who no doubt felt a 
country just escaped from a long Puritan regime might res- 
pond readily to brightening efforts. In the old Neapolitan 
puppet-play Pollecimlla is a clumsy and cowardly peasant of 
grotesque appearance, with a trick of blurting out unplea- 
sant truths. It is this aspect of his character that is re- 
flected in the French ‘ 'secret de Polichiiielle,’’ a secret which 
is really a matter of common knowledge. In England 
Punchinello gradually developed into the "merry outlaw,’’ 
whose unfailing triumph over all his enemies has given us 
the phrase "as pleased as Punch.” Judy does not appear 
under that name till the i gth century. Steele writes in the 
Tatler of "Punch and his wife,” and Scott, in the first chap- 
ter of The Bride of Lammermoor, mentions "Punch and his 
wife Joan.” 

As to the origin of the name, we find the usual crop of 
anecdotes, but the truth seems to be that pollecimlla is the 
Neapolitan form of It. pulcinellap a chicken. This word was 
also applied at Naples to the young turkey-cock, whose 
beak the mask of the puppet resembled. 

Our great authority for Punchinello is Mr. Pepys, who fre- 
quented the new entertainment with real enthusiasm. 
He refers to it as the "Puppet-play” on Oct. 8, 1662. A few 
years later the name was well established: "By coach to 
Moorefields, and there saw Polichineilo, which pleases me 
mightily” (Aug. 22, 1666); "Thence away to Polichineilo, 
and there had three times more sport than at the play” 
(April 9, 1667); “Thence to the fayre, and saw Polichin- 
elle” (Aug. 31, 1668). One cannot help thinking that the 
diarist recognized a kindred spirit in the cheerful reprobate 
and some suggestion of his own connubial existence ("my 

^ A diminutive of pidcina ; cf. Fr. poussirif a chick. The ultimate origin 
(cf, Fr. poule, Eng. pullet^ poultry) is Lat. puliuSj pulla, young of animals, 
especially birds. 


85 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

wife, poor wretch !”) in the revelations of Mr. Punch’s home 
life. 

The name was almost at once corrupted to Punchinello^ a 
form also used by Pepys, and then inevitably shortened to 
Punch. In a very short time it became a London colloquial- 
ism for a stumpy, thick-set figure. On April 20, 1669, 
Pepys has some account of a new gun ' ‘which, from the 
shortness and bigness, they do call ‘Punchinello,’ ” and 
then, ten days later; “Staying among poor people there in 
the ^ley, did hear them call their fat child ‘Punch,’ which 
pleased me mightily, that word being become a word of 
common use for all that is thick and short” (April 30, 1669). 

The Dictionary of the Canting Grew (c. 1700) has 
punch: a thick short man; punch nag: a short, thick, fat, 
squat, strong horse.” As late as 1820 Washington Irving, 
in his Sketch-Book, described Garrick as “a short, punch 
man”; but it was especially to horses that the epithet was 
applied, to be monopolized eventually by one special breed, 
the “Suffolk punch.” 

Raid 

No writer ever disinterred so many good old words as 
Scott, Some of his trouvailles have never foimd general 
acceptance, others belong to Wardour Street, and a few are 
odd blunders or ghost-words, due to his misunderstanding 
his authorities. But a considerable proportion of the words 
he revived have become an inseparable element of the poetic 
and picturesque vocabulary, from which some have passed 
into everyday speech. Among these is raid. 

It is the Scottish form of Anglo-Sax. rdd^ riding,^ cognate 
with the verb to ride^ and, as we should expect, is chiefly 
recorded in connection with the moss-troopers of the Bor- 
der. In Mid. English rad became rodcy now road^ which had 
the sense now taken over by its northern doublet. In 1481 
Edward IV speaks, in a royal proclamation, of “a rode 
^ Cf. Fr. chevauchie, used historically in exactly the same way. 


86 



RAID 


made uppon the Scottes at thende of this last somer within 
their grounde by oure Brother of Gioucestre. ’ ’ This sense of 
road survived up to the 17th centuryj after which it was 
expressed by the compound inroad. 

The meaning we now generally attach to road^ as in 
Oxford Road, is first recorded in Shakespeare, who makes a 
carrier complain that his inn at Rochester is ‘‘the most 
villainous house in all London Road for fleas” ( i Henry IV, 

Raid^ a mounted incursion, is not recorded by the Oxford 
Dictionary between Pitscottie’s Chronicle of Scotland (c. 
1578) and Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805). Of 
William of Deloraine, a “stark moss-trooping Scot,” we are 
told that — 

In raids he spilt but seldom blood, 

Unless when men-at-arms withstood, 

Or, as was meet, for deadly feud. 

(Lay, V, 28.) 

Moss'-trooper (see p. 21, n. 2) is another of Scott’s revivals, 
but, while this word is still confined to romance and history, 
raid has become part of our working vocabulary. 

In the latter part of the 19th century it came into general 
use in connection with descents of the police on gambling 
hells, coiners’ dens, etc., and “raiding the sinking fund” 
became a recognized device of a perplexed Chancellor of 
the Exchequer, World War I gave a new meaning to the 
word, I do not know what journalist first used “air-raid” 
of the attacks made by the Zeppelins on the civilian popula- 
tion, but I have a note to the effect that this compound is of 
about the same date as the epithet “baby-killer,” used 
(December, 1914) in reference to the bombardment of 
Scarborough. 

When air-raids on London began to be really unpleasant, 
a large proportion of the alien population took to evacuat- 
ing the capital, as soon as the evening shades prevailed, and 
camping in the villages of the home counties, where they 

87 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

were commonly known as ‘‘raiders.’’ The inhabitants of 
one village^ stricken with compassion at a first invasion, but 
unable, for many reasons, to offer house-room to the 
“raiders,” provided them with all they could spare in the 
%vay of tents, rugs and mattresses. When they arose in the 
morning, they found that their visitors had folded their 
tents like the Arabs and silently stolen away, transitively as 
well as intransitively. 

Rigmarole 

The first word-hunter to record rigmarole is Samuel Pegge 
the elder, who defines it (1736) as “a long story, a ‘tale of a 
tub.’ ” It was in general use in the i8th century, though 
the lexicographers (Bailey, Johnson, Ash, etc.) completely 
ignore it. Todd added it to his revised Johnson (1827). 
He describes it as “colloquial and modern,” and explains it 
as being probably “a corruption of an old expression, 
namely, of the famous ‘ragman’s roll,’ as a collection of 
deeds was called, in which the (Scottish) nobility and gentry 
were compelled to subscribe allegiance to King Edward I 
of England.” Todd also mentions the use of ragman in 
Piers Plowman. 

His explanation is not far from the truth, but he misses 
one link in the history of the word. Historically ragman-roll 
is most familiar in connection with the famous Scottish 
document of 1291 (see Scott’s Antiquary, ch. 6), but this is 
not the first occurrence of the word. Ragman is found a few 
years earlier ^ as the alternative name of a statute appoint- 
ing justices to hear and settle certain complaints and carry 
out certain inquiries: “Statutum de justiciis assignatis quod 
vocatur Rageman.” The result of this statute appears in 
the famous Hundred Rolls, compiled by the travelling 
justices after interrogation of the local representatives. The 

^ The date given in Statutes of the Realm is 1276, but Miss H. M. 
Gamm has found the earliest record of the word in 1280 (Oxford Studies 
in Social and Legal History). 

88 



RIGMAROLE 


lower part of the membrane for each “hundred’* is slit into 
a number of strips^ to which are attached the seals of the 
jurymen whose names occur in the document. The name 
ragman seems to have been popularly applied to any docu- 
ment having pendent strings and seals. The Chronicle of 
Lanercost (written c. 1350) tells us that “Instrumentum 
sive carta subjectionis et homagii faciendi regibus Angliac a 
Scottis propter multa sigiila dependentia Tagman’ 
vocabatur.” 

Two views are held as to the reason for the nickname. 
Mid. Eng. ragman meant a man in rags : ragman^ or he that 
goth with raggyd {var, jaggyd) clothys” (Promptorium 
Parvulorum, 1440), It is also, in Piers Plowman, a name 
for the devil or a demon. ^ Some ^ are of opinion that the 
roll, terminating in a bunch of strips, suggested to the 
popular fancy the raggle-taggle garb of a man all tattered 
and torn. Others ® think that the justices, whose arrival in 
any district was calculated to alarm uneasy consciences, 
were popularly regarded as “demons,” and that the name 
was applied to the officials before it became associated with 
their “rolls.” However that may be, a gap still remains 
between the official ragman-roll and the modern rigmarole. 
This gap is filled up by another meaning of ragman-roll, 
which occurs almost as early as the administrative use. 

Our medieval ancestors were fond of childish games of the 
same type as the “forfeits” of the Victorians. In Gilbert’s 
ballad of The Gentle Pieman we read : 

And wc pulled the Christmas crackers, each of which contained a 
motto; 

And she listened while I read them, till her mother told her not to. 
Similarly, medieval society amused itself with a game which 

^ Demons are often described as ragged (i.e. shaggy) in Mid. English. 
Demon is also the earliest meaning of ragamuffin (Piers Plowman). 

® So Miss Camm, op, cit. 

® So M. Charles Bemont, Le Statut “De Justiciis assignatis quod 
vocatur Rageman” (Essays in Medieval History, Manchester, 1925), 

G 89 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

consisted in drawing at random mottoes, or rather charac- 
ters, from a ragman-rolL The oldest example we have is an 
Anglo-French manuscript of c. 1290 entitled Ragemon le 
Bon A It consists of fifty quatrains, each of which describes 
the character of one of .the players. Wright supposes that 
“the stanzas were written one after another on a roll of 
parchment, that to each stanza a string was attached at the 
side, with a seal, or piece of metal or wood at the end, and 
that, when used, the parchment was rolled up, with all the 
strings and their seals hanging together so that the drawer 
had no reason for choosing one more than another, but drew 
one of the strings by mere chance, on which the roll was 
opened to see bn what stanza he had fallen.’’ Something 
similar seems to be suggested by Gower: 

Venus, which stant withoute lawe, 

In non certeyn, but as men drawc 
Of Ragemon upon the chauncc. 

(Confessio Amantis, iii, 355.) 

Nearly all the quatrains of Ragemon Ic Bon are uncompli- 
mentary, and some of those to which lady participants in 
the game were expected to listen are of such a kind that it 
would not be surprising if their mothers “told them not to.” 

The modern view is that the game was named from the 
administrative ragman-roll. Wright suggests that the oppo- 
site is the case : “We can very easily imagine why the name 
was popularly applied to a charter with an unusual number 
of seals attached to it, which when rolled up would present 
exactly the same appearance.” I am inclined to agree with 
Wright, and to suppose that a name already familiar in 
connection with fun and merriment may have been jocu- 
larly applied to legal documents which suggested an obvious 
resemblance with an instrument of mirth. This seems to 
agree better with popular psychology. If this is right, the 

^ Printed (1844) by Thomas Wright in Anecdota littcraria, together 
with a 15th-century Ragman-Roll in English. Also, more recently 
(Helsingfors, 1920), by Professor lAngfors. 

90 



ROBOT 


“raggle-taggle” explanation of the word is to be preferred 
to the “demon” complex. 

Anyhow, it is from the game of ragman-roll, and not from 
the judicial rolls so called, that rigmarole, still occasionally 
spelt rigmonrall in the i8th century, is derived. The various 
“characters” of Ragemon le Bon are naturally quite un- 
connected and incoherent, which is the essential quality of a 
rigmarole. In fact, before it was realized that they had to do 
with a game of chance, scholars were much puzzled by the 
lack of relation between the stanzas of what appeared to be 
medieval poems. It is easy to see how the sense of a series 
of rambling statements would grow out of the original. 

Robot 

Some foreign words reach us in a rather accidental way. 
If Morier had not written his Oriental tales early in the 
19th century, we should not possess the indispensable bosh, 
the only Turkish word in general use in English. Mascot 
came to us from Audran’s operetta, La Mascotte (1880). 
Soon after the successful production in London (1923) 
of Karel Capek’s play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal 
Robots), the word robot, in the sense of mechanical slave, 
began to appear pretty frequently in the newspapers and in 
the works of our younger and smarter novelists. It is now 
fully acclimatized. A new word is always worth catching 
and ticketing. In this case there is no difficulty. The 
Czech word for work is robota, cognate with Old Slav. 
rab, rob, slave, which survives as rab in Modem Russian. 
But the relations and sense-development of the word throw 
a little light, as in fact most words do, on human nature and 
human history. 

Work may be considered under two aspects. According 
to Carlyle, “Blessed is the man who has found his workj let 
him ask no other blessedness,” while the refrain of the Song 
of a Shirt turns the same word almost into a dirge— “Work, 
work, work!” The distinction is really between the work 

91 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

that is congenial or remunerative and that which is dull or 
ill-requited. The first is opus, the second is labor, to which 
we will recur later. 

According to Kluge, robot has existed in German since the 
15th century in the sense of frondunst, i.e. serf labour, corv6c. 
It no doubt came into the language with the subjugation of 
some Slavonic race.^ 

The German word corresponding in general to our work 
is arheiL This is found in all the Teutonic languages, e.g. 
Anglo-Sax. earfeihe, Dutch arbeid, Old Norse erfithe, Goth. 
arbaiths, and the oldest meaning of all these words is not 
ordinary work, but laborious toil,® or, more frequently, 
oppression, affliction, distress. The Nibeiungenlied begins : 
Uns ist in alten maeren wunders vil geseit 
Von heleden lobebseren, von grozer arebcit.®' 

The sinister connotation of the word is due, not only to the 
natural human preference for short hours and long wages, 
but also to the nature of the work originally described as 
arbeit. Arbeit is a compound of a prehistoric Teutonic name 
for a serf, cognate with the Old Slav* tab, rob, from which 
robot is derived. Its original sense was slavery. 

Whether the lab of Lat. labor is ultimately identical with 
the arb of arbeit is an unsettled question, but the sense- 
history of the two words is curiously similar. Labor starts 
from the idea of oppression, perhaps originally that of 
staggering under a burden. Cooper renders it by ^‘labour, 
travaile, peiill, danger, calamitie, trouble,” and Aeneas 
uses it in the very sense of the arbeit of the Nibeiungenlied, 
when he asks Achates, ‘"Quae regio in terns nostri non plena 
laboris?” 

1 Cf. the history of slave, lit. Slavonian, or of Anglo-Sax. wealh, slave, 
lit. Welshman, Briton. 

® Toil also originally meant struggle, suffering. Its few occurrences 
in the Authorized Version render the labor, laborare, of the Vulgate. 
In the corresponding Gothic passages Ulfilas has arbaiths, 

® In old legends many wonders are told us of praiseworthy heroes, of 
great “toil and trouble.** 

93 



RUNAGATE 


If we pursue the subject further, we find that toil ouce 
meant dispute, turmoil. The modern toiler would hardly 
recognize himself in the Old Fr. "Houilleur: a polipragmon, 
filthie medler, shuffling or troublesome fellow, one that 
marres things by a beastlie mingling of them (Gotgrave). 
In Scots we find iulzte^^ tuilyie, a melee, scrimmage. Fr. 
tramil^ work, of uncertain etymology, was originally an 
instrument of torture, and is still used of a farrier’s device 
for keeping vicious horses still. It has given us both the 
obstetric travail (cf. the synonymous labour) and also travel^ 
once a most exhausting physical experience. 

The conclusion of the whole matter is that man’s attitude 
towards the doom incurred by Ms first parents has never 
been one of real enthusiasm. 

Riinaga5.e 

Med. Latin had an adjective remgaius^ one who has 
denied the (Christian) faith. For the illogical use of the 
passive past participle for the active present participle cf. 
such words as drcumspect, fair-spoken, Fr. dissirmU, deceitful, 
or Ger. pflichtvergessen, forgetful of duty. Rmegatus entered 
English by separate routes and has given four separate 
forms. The earliest is Mid. Eng, renegat, taken straight from 
the Latin form. It is used by Chaucer (Man of Law’s Tale) 
in its original sense of apostate: 

How may this wayke womman han this strengthe 
Hire to defende agayn this renegat? (B. 934.) 

The ‘‘renegat” had been previously described (L 915) as 
“a theef that hadde reneyed oure creance,” i.e. he was 
technically a recreant, for the latter word is the Old French 
present participle of recreire (Lat. recredere), to take back one’s 
belief. 

In the 1 6th century the older renegat or renegate was 

^ Pronounced iooly. The z is a printer’s substitution for the obsolete 
letter with a sound; cf, Mackenzie, Menzies, Dalziel, etc. 


93 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

replaced by the Spanish form remgado^ Anglicized as 
renegade^ and applied especially to Christian captives of the 
Moslems who had adopted the Mohammedan religion. It 
is a common word in Hakluyt, where it is defined as ‘^one 
that first was a Christian and afterwards becommeth a 
Turke.” Captain John Smith has a good deal to say about 
these ‘'accursed runagados,” who taught the Moors sea- 
manship and rose to wealth and importance in Barbary. 
Shakespeare uses the Spanish form: “Yond gull Malvolio 
is turned heathen, a very renegado” (Twelfth Night, iii, 2 ). 
This is the only occurrence of the word in Shakespeare, nor 
is any of the three forms found in the Authorized Version, 
though the Douay Version has "renegate children” for the 
"rebellious children” of Isaiah xxx. i {filii desertores in the 
Vulgate) . 

Between the introduction of renegate and that of renegade 
folk-etymology manufactured the curious runagate, A-gate, 
going, on the road, etc., is still good northern English, 
and, as runaway^ earlier renaway, meant a deserter, and 
runabouty earlier renabout, a vagabond, the popular mind 
apprehended renagate as a similar formation and sometimes 
pronounced it runagate, Nashe describes Julian the Apos- 
tate as "Julian the runnagate.” Captain John Smith 
prefers the horrible form runagado (v.s.). The change of 
form gradually affected the sense, so that runagate became a 
rather vague term of abuse, in which the idea of vagabond 
dominated. It occurs once in Shakespeare (Gymbeline, i, 
6) in the sense of unfaithful, but elsewhere he uses it for 
vagabond, outlaw: 

Cloien: I cannot find those runagates; that villain 
Hath mockd me; — I am faint. 

Belarius: “Those runagates!** 

Means he not us? I partly know him; ’tis 
Clotcn, the son o* the queen. I fear some ambush. 

I saw him not these many years, and yet 
I know *tis he: — We are held as outlaws. 

(Gymbeline, iv, 2.) 


94 



SLOGAN 


Before tlie end of the i jth century the perverted sense had 
quite prevailed over the original. Thomas’s Latin Diction- 
ary (1644) has ^^rumagate: vide rogue.” Littleton (1677) 
renders it by erroy a Late Latin word for a vagabond, but 
notes also runagate that hath quit his religion: apostataJ^ 
Already in the i6th century the word was applied especially 
to Gain (Genesis iv. 12), and it is still in general dialect use 
in England and America for a gadabout. As a literary word 
it is now familiar only in the Prayer-book Version of Psalm 
Ixviii. 6, where the Authorized Version has ‘"rebellious.” 

Slogan 

The late H. W, Fowler, in that Dictionary of Modern 
English Usage which is a treasured possession of all edu- 
cated people, remarks, with regard to the word slogan^ 
“Though the great vogue of the word as a substitute for the 
older ‘motto,^ ‘watchword/ ‘rule,’ etc., is of thb 20th cen- 
tury only, and we old fogies regard it with patriotic dislike 
as a Scotch interloper, it was occasionally so used earlier; 
the Oxford English Dictionary has a quotation from 
Macaulay.” 

I fancy that if Fowler were rewriting this note to-day, 
his tone would be somewhat more sardonic. That a 
“vogue-word” should turn up daily is to be expected, but 
when, in one issue of our morning paper, we find a Prince 
of the Church regretting the modern tendency to get drunk 
on rhetoric, “which usually concludes in a slogan, which 
more often turns out to be a lie”; a County Director of 
Education stating that the countryman is “not so much 
under the dominance of catchwords and slogans as the 
townsman”; a Midland miner expressing the opinion that 
it is better to go back to work than “to starve on a slogan” ; 
and sporadic occurrences of the same word in the sporting 
paragraphs, the letters to the editor, the literary and 
dramatic news, etc., we begin to be a little tired of the 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

Like most other words that have a vogoe, slogm is a 
victim of popular ignorance. Neither ‘‘Shoot the Reds I*® 
nor “To Heil with the Capitalists!” is really a slogan. It is 
a Lowland corruption of the Gaelic sluagh-ghairm^ host-yell, 
army shout, and the slogan of the Highlanders was the name 
of their chief, which was also the name of their clan. 
Borrowed in a mangled form by the Lowlanders, it became 
familiar on the Border, the Scotsmen’s cry of “A Hamil- 
ton!” or “A Home!” being answered by the Southrons 
with “A Fenwick!” or “A Musgrave!” According to a 
writer of 1683, the “bluegowns,” or licensed beggars, “use 
still to recite the sloggorne of the true ancient names of 
Scotland,” With the passing of the liveliness which so long 
characterized the Debatable Land, slogan fell into disuse, to 
be revived, and misused, like some other words, by Scott: 

To heaven the Border slogan rung, 

“St. Mary for the young Bucdeuchl’* 

(Lay, iv, ay.) 

It was, no doubt, from Scott that it was borrowed by Mac- 
aulay, who was apparently the first to use it of a party cry 
in politics. I have a vague impression that its popular use. 
for a catchword sufficiently stentorian to drown argument 
or criticism is of American origin. Most contemporary 
English is. Among my cuttings I find “Judge; ‘What do 
you mean by a slogan?* Barrister; Tt is an American ad- 
vertising term, my lord.* Judge; ‘Really! I thought it was 
the war-cry of a Highland clan.’ ” 

The earliest dictionary in which I have found slogan is 
Worcester*? (i860). He explains it as a corruption of 
“Slug home!” One has heard of a “home-thrust,” and 
also of the American camp-preacher who translated the 
Biblical words “they left beating of Paul ” (Acts xxi. 32) 
into the homelier vernacular “they quit slugging Paid.” 
Worcester, I may remark, was an American. 

The Border form sloggorn misled Chatterton, who took it 
for the name of a kind of trumpet, and added it to his col- 
96 



SOVIET 


lection of sham antiques. It occurs more than once in Ms 
Battle of Hastings: 

Some caught a slughorne and an onsctt wounde; 

Kynge Haroide hearde the charge and wondred at the sounde. 

This absurdity was copied by Browning, whose capacity for 
perpetrating verbal howlers was almost inspirational: 

Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set 

And blew, “Ghilde Roland to the Dark Tower came.** 

Soviet 

The Indo-European languages are sometimes divided 
into the centum and satem families, according to their treat- 
ment of the initial consonant in the general Indo-European 
name for loo. If we adopt this division, the Slavonic 
languages will be grouped with the Asiatic or Indo-Iranian 
branch of the family. This is illustrated by soviet, a Russian 
compound of which the first element is the prefix jo-, corres- 
ponding to the CO- of co-operate, and thus ultimately identical 
with Lat. cum, con, with. 

It is curious to reflect that before 1916 hardly one English- 
man in a million had ever heard of a soviet or a Bolshevist, 
words wMch now assault the eye in every newspaper that we 
open. In fact Bolshevist is already almost replaced by the 
more affectionate and familiar Bolshy. 

The Bolsheviki were originally the majority at the Russian 
Socialist Conference of 1903, and the word is connected 
with Bolshintsvo, majority, from Bolshe, greater, more. The 
root does not appear to exist in the Germanic languages. 
In 1903, and indeed up to 1916, there were also mensheviki, 
members of the minority, from men^she, smaller, less, which 
is cognate with Anglo-Sax. min, Ger. minder, Lat. minor, Gr. 
piimv, etc. The menshevists have not survived the strenu- 
ous propaganda of their opponents. Apparently they have 
been “liquidated.” 

At the time when these verbal novelties first became 
known in this country, they were often rendered by “maxi- 

97 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

malist’’ and ^‘minimalist,” with a mistaken ^ implication 
as to their meaning. Another Russian term, certainly often 
misunderstood, was cadet^ the name of a Russian party now 
also eliminated. Even modem dictionaries published since 
World War I identify this word with the familiar French 
and English cadet. It is really one of those acrostic political 
descriptions which have become so numerous of late. ^ It 
represents a pun on the Russian pronunciation of K.D., i.e. 
konsiitucionnaya demokratya. 

Sovjet is an old word in Russian. Its current limitation 
of sense is quite modern. Composed of the prefix so- and a 
root meaning to speak, which appears also in otvjet, answer, 
privjet, greeting, it simply means council, and was in com- 
mon use long before Russia was made safe for democracy. 
The root of the word is very old in Slavonic, and the name 
vietsche was applied long ago to a kind of ancient Russian 
national assembly. To Russ, sovjet correspond Serbo- 
Croatian savjet and Slovene svet. 

The same Slavonic prefix is represented in Sobranje and 
Skupshchina^ the national parliaments of Bulgaria and Serbia. 
In Sobranje the second element is cognate with Russ, beru, 
I gather, assemble, and with Lat. ferrcy Gr. so 

that the assembly is, not only in fact, but also etymologic- 
ally, a “con-ference.” Skupshchina contains the Old Slav, 
kupy heap, whence Serbo-Croatian skupiti^ to gather, and 
this kup is a distant cousin of Eng. heap^ Dutch hoop^ Ger. 
haufen. 

Spick-and-span 

Dr. Johnson did not love monosyllables. His explana- 
tion of spick-and-span is characteristic: “This word I should 
not have expected to hd.ve found authorized by a polite 

1 “Lenin’s followers henceforward (1903) were dubbed ‘majority 
men* or Bolshevists” (Times Literary Supplement, March 3, 1948). 

® Cf. Fr. cigitiste, member of the Confederation Generalc du Travail 
(G.G.T.), Russ, mp (novaya ckonomicheskaya politika). 

98 



SPICK-AND-SPAN 


writer. Span-new is used by Chaucer, and is supposed to 
come from spannan, to stretch. Span-new is therefore origin- 
ally used of cloth new extended or dressed at the clothiers, 
and spick-and-span is newly extended on the spikes or tenters. 
It is, however, a low word.” On which Home Tooke re- 
marks disagreeably, in The Diversions of Purley, *Tn spick- 
and-span there is nothing stretched upon spikes and tenters 
but the etymologist’s ignorance.” The critic then pro- 
ceeds, ‘Tn Dutch they say spikspelder-niew. And spyker 
means a warehouse or magazine. Spil or spel means a 
spindle, schiet-spoel^ the weaver’s shuttle; and spoelder, the 
shuttle-thrower. In Dutch, therefore, spikspelder-niew 
means new from the warehouse and the loom.” This is, of 
course, even worse nonsense than Johnson’s. 

The oldest English expression is Mid. Eng, span-new ^ in 
which span means chip, splinter, with a suggestion of clean- 
cut white wood : 

This tale ay was span-newe to bigiimc. 

Til that the night departed hem a-twinne. 

(Chaucer, Troilus, iii, 1665.) 

Alternative words were brand-new and fire-new^ both of metal 
fresh from the furnace or the mint. Shakespeare uses the 
latter several times: 

Maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence. 

Despite thy victor-sword and fire-new fortune. 

Thy valour and thy heart — thou art a traitor. 

(Lear, v, 3.) 

A similar idea is perhaps contained in Fr. tout battant neuf, as 
though new from the anvil or the stamping-die. The usual 
German word is funkelnagelneu^ lit. sparkle-nail-new. 
Earlier we find ^^nagelneu: brand-new, fire-new, spick-and- 
span new” (Ludwig). This brings us to the spick of spick- 
and-span new^ now reduced to spick-and-span. 

Spick is not an English word. It was adapted, probably in 
the 16th century, from the spik of archaic Dutch ^^spikspel- 
demkw: spick-and-span new” (Sewel), which is formed 

99 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

from spijker^ a nail, and speld, a pin. We still say clean 
(or neat) as a new pin.” With this intensification of span’- 
new we may compare the curious variations recorded by the 
English Dialect Dictionary, viz. brand-fire’*new^ brand’-spander-- 
new^ brand-spankin^-new, in the last of which spankin' is evid- 
ently a kind of portmanteau combination of spick and span. 
These two monosyllables stand for the two ideas that run 
through all these odd compounds, viz. clean metal and 
clean wood. 

Stor(e)y 

From Lat. historia^ which is Gr. IcrropCa^ from Tortopj 
learned, wise, a judge, Old French formed estorie. This 
passed into English as story^ with the usual loss of the un- 
stressed first syllable. Later on both languages adopted 
learned forms, histoire^ history. For centuries the two Eng- 
lish words, story y history^ existed side by side and were used 
indifferently. In the 14th-century translation of Higden’s 
Polychronicon we read, “Dcdes that wolde deie, storye 
(i.e. history) kepeth hem evermore.” The modern mind is 
somewhat disconcerted to find a divine like Robert South 
speaking in a sermon (1684) of “Holy Writ and other 
stories.” The historical sense still survives more or less 
poetically in Our Island Story, The Story of Creation, etc., 
while history has often been used of fictitious narrative, e.g. 
Fielding’s Tom Jones, the History of a Foimdling. It was not 
till the 1 7th century that story definitely assumed the second- 
ary sense of fiction, tale, which by the end of the century 
passed also into that of fabrication, lie. From the fact that 
the same fate has overtaken Fr. histoire^ and that conte^ a talc, 
etymologically an exact account (Lat. computus)^ is also used 
for a fib, the moralist might be tempted to draw unfavour- 
able conclusions as to the general standard of human 
veracity. 

So far all is plain sailing, but the problem is to account 
for stor{e)y acquiring the sense of floor in a building. Skeat 


100 



STUN 


derives st&r{e)y^ in this sense^ from the past participle of Old 
Fr. estouT^ But, although Old Fr. estorer means to build 
(with about a dozen other meanings, ail traceable to Lat. 
instmtare)^ the only substantival sense of esioree was a fleet. 
This etymology, which originated with Wedgwood, is also 
completely negatived by the fact that, two centuries before 
the first occurrence of stor{e)y (of a building), Anglo-Lat. 
historia, istoria, is copiously recorded in the same sense, a fact 
which show's that the stor(e)y of a house is identical etymo- 
logically with the narrative story. This use of Med. Lat. 
historia seems to have been peculiar to England. The 
Oxford Dictionary suggests that the name may have origin- 
ally been applied to a tier of painted windows or sculptures 
on the front of a house. This seems plausible, especially 
when we consider the very ornate character of medieval 
houses of the better class. 

Med. Lat. historiare meant to carve or paint, and this use 
of the English word, as in Milton’s ‘"storied windows richly 
dight” and Gray’s “storied urn or animated bust,” goes 
back to the 14th century. The Oxford Dictionary quotes 
from about the same date “una historia octo fenestrarum,” 
i.e. a pictorial series of eight windows. Historia was used, 
not only of carvings and paintings, but also of tapestry, 
“pannujs figuris intextus” (Du Cange), so that the sense of 
floor may have sprung partly also from the internal decora- 
tion (tapestries or frescoes) of the building. Peter Mundy, 
describing in 1642 the “faire streets of Dantzigh,” says, “In 
these are many faire lofty buildings of brick, outwardly 
adorned with paintings and windows, and inwardly costly 
and curious in house furniture, pictures, etts. The seeling 
and sides off their roomes nettly painted with stories, etts.” 

StTin 

It sometimes happens that a word is introduced from 
French into English more than once, the difference in date 
of adoption being reflected both in its form and meaning, 

lOI 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

Thus, Lat. gentilis, from gens, a race, gave Fr. gentil. Adopted 
early into English, with the usual shifting of accent, this 
became gentle. Reintroduced much later, but before the 
final of the French word had become silent, it gave genteel, 
with an attempt at preserving the French accentuation. 
When the French -I was lost, it made, in the 1 7th century, a 
third appearance a.sjanty, jantee {now jaunty) . As gentilis is 
also represented in English by the learned word Gentile, we 
have four separate forms, with separate meanings from one 
original. 

The same phenomenon is illustrated by the history of 
stun and its variants. Vulgar Latin formed from the verb 
tonare, to thunder, a compound extonare, to express the idea 
of thunder-striking. This became Old Fr. estoner (now 
^tanner), which, retaining something of the sense of its Latin 
original, was used of knocking senseless. Aucassin smote 
the Count of Valence so vigorously on his helmet that “11 
fut si eston& qu’il cal (=fell) a terre.” In later Old 
French estoner meant to daze with noise, and it preserved 
something of its old sense as late as the 17th century, e.g. 
Bossuet says of Conde, “On le vit etonner de ses regards 
etincelants ceux qui 6chappaient a ses coups.” 

The Norman form of Old Fr. estoner was estuner. This 
gave Eng. astun, and, with the usual loss of the first syllable, 
stun, in the sense of dazing, physically or mentally. The 
forms estouner and estoner also became, retaining the prefix, 
astoun and aston. Astoun developed a parasitic -d, just as 
Mid. Eng. soun (Fr. son) has become sound, and, in the cur- 
rent form astound, has kept much of the original force of the 
word. German borrowed, through Swiss-French, “erstau- 
nen: to stand stunned, astonished, amazed, stupified, 
daunted, perplexed, puzzled, planet-struck, benumbed, 
surprized or dismayed at a thing” (Ludwig). For aston or 
astone was substituted astony (cf. levy, Fr. lever, occupy, Fr. 
occuper, etc.), which, like astound, preserved the “stunning” 
sense till the end of the i6th century. Cooper defines Lat. 


102 



TURNPIKE 


torpedo^ the electric ray or cramp-fish, as fish that hath 
the nature to make the handes of them that touche it to be 
astonycdj though he doe it with a long pole.” 

English verbs in 4sh are derived from French verbs in -ir, 
-iki'-s e.g. nourish from nourrir^ nourriss-. There was a tend- 
ency to apply this ending where it was not justified, e.g. we 
have distinguish substituted for older distingue^ Fr. distinguer. 
Soj in the i6th century, astony^ which is still preserved in 
the Authorized Version, began to have as a rival astonish. 
Palsgrave has, ‘T astonysshe with a stroke upon the head: 
jestourdis (modern fetourdis)d’ In the Authorized Version 
Gstony and astonish still express a very much stronger emotion 
than surprise: “The pillars of heaven tremble and are 
astonished [Vulgate, pavent] at his reproof” (Job xxvi. 1 1). 

The use of stunning as an admirative epithet belongs to the 
age of Dickens and Thackeray. It is characteristic of the 
Anglo-Saxons that they usually express excellence or size by 
words descriptive of noise {thuryieringy rattlingy clinking) or 
physical ill-treatment {ripping, thumping, spanking, strapping, 
whopping). In stunning the two ideas appear to be com- 
bined: “ ‘Twopence-halfpenny,* says the landlord, fis the 
price of the Genuine Stunning ale.’ 

“ ‘Then,’ says I, producing the money, ‘just draw me a 
glass of the Genuine Stunning, if you please, with a good 
head on it’ ” (David Copperfield, ch. ii). 

Turnpike 

Mr. Weller senior, who had the cockney’s objection to 
first syllables, once threatened, in a moment of depression, 
to keep a “pike” : “Say good-bye to your father, Samivel. 
I dewote the remainder of my days to a pike” (Pickwick, 
ch. 56). We know from his philosophic conversation with 
Mr. Pickwick on the Ipswich coach that he regarded “pike- 
keepers” as disappointed men who “rewenge themselves on 
mankind by takin’ tolls” (ibid., ch. 22) . The letter in which 
he announced the demise of the second Mrs. Weller is 

103 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

couched in the language of his calling: ‘*Just as she wos a 
turnen the corner my boy she took the wrong road and vent 
down hill vith a welocity you never see and notvithstandin 
that the drag wos put on drektly by the medikel man it 
wornt of no use at all for she paid the last pike at twenty 
minutes afore six o’cloclc yesterday evenin’’ (ibid,, ch. 52). 
Mr. Weller alludes to those barriers at which, within the 
memory of many now living, tolls were regularly levied for 
the upkeep of the roads. We still use “turnpike road,” or 
simply turnpike, for a main road. George Eliot, in Silas 
Marner, describes Raveloe as “nestled in a snug well- 
wooded hollow, quite an hour’s journey on horseback from 
any turnpike.” 

Turnpike, like its former synonym chevaux^de-frise, was 
originally a military term. It is formed from turn and pike, 
in the sense of a heavy spear, and is recorded from c. 1420. 
The Gentleman’s Dictionary (1705) has ^^chevaux de frise or 
turnpikes: spars of wood about a foot diameter, and ten or 
twelve long, cut into six faces, and bored through; each hole 
is armed with a short spike shod with iron at each end, about 
an inch diameter, 6 foot long, and 6 inches distant one from 
another, so that it points out every way, and is proper for 
stopping small overtures (= openings), or to be placed in 
breaches: they are likewise a very good defence against 
horse.” Traditionally the chevaux^de^frise, still to be seen on 
the walls of prison-yards, were invented by the Nether- 
landers to make up for their lack of cavalry against the 
Spaniards. The Dutch name was vriesse paerden, Frisian 
horses, with which cf. archaic Ger. friesische renter (= reiter, 
troopers). The beam revolved if the spikes were grasped. 

The turnpike in its later and more pacific sense was 
apparently a i yth-century introduction. It had a central 
support on which it revolved horizontally and was in fact a 
turnstile. It is defined by Johnson as “a cross of two bars 
armed with pikes at the ends, and turning on a pin, fixed 
to hinder horses from entering.” Later it became the gate 
104 



UPROAR 


which some of us remember. The turnpikes have dis- 
appeared from the public roads, but at many spots may 
still be seen the small buildings formerly inhabited by those 
morose officials of whom Mr. Weller says that, ‘Tf they was 
gen’lem^n you’d call ’em misanthropes.” , 

Uproar 

This word occurs seven times in the Authorized Version 
in the sense of civic commotion, popular disturbance: “Not 
on the feast-day, lest there be an uproar [Vulgate, tumultusi 
among the people” (Mark xiv. 2), This is its true meaning, 
and it has nothing to do with the roaring of the lion,^ though 
it is of this word that we think when we speak of “uproarious 
laughter.” 

Mid. English had rore, disturbance, usually in the phrase 
“in {or on) a rore.” It was borrowed early from Dutch 
“ra^r; trouble, cbmmotion, sedition, or tumult” (Hexham, 
1672), which corresponds to the verb ^^roeren: to touch, stirr, 
or meddle with” (ibid.); cf. Ger. ruhre% to stir, and Anglo- 
Sax. hreran, the latter of which survives in dialect rear^mouse^ 
i.e. flitter-mouse or bat. The Promptorium Parvulorum 
(1440) has or turhyle amongepepel: disturbium, tumultus, 

turbacio, perturbacio, comminacio.” Miranda uses it to 
her father : 

If by your art, my dearest father, you have 
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them, 

(Tempest, i, 2.) 

It was naturally associated with the older mar, the lion’s 
voice, and it would be hard to say how much of each word 
enters into Hamlet’s address to Yorick’s skull : “Where be 
your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes 
of merriment that were wont to set the table in a roar?” 
(Hamlet, v, i). 

The Dutch verb also passed into Mid. English with the 
sense of busy activity, chaffering, barter, and still survives 
* This is from Anglo-Sax. ruriann 

H 105 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

in ‘‘roaring trade.” Lastly, the “roaring boys,” or Mo- 
hocks, of the 17th century, who succeeded the “roarers” of 
the 1 6th century, were not named from their voices, but 
from their tumultuous behaviour. As early as 1311 one 
Simon Braban (evidently a Fleming) was indicted in Lon- 
don as “noctivagus et rorere,” i.e. as a night-prowler and 
disturber of the peace. 

Tyndale appears to have been the first Bible translator to 
use for disturbance, e.g., where the Authorized Version 
(Acts xix. 29) has “filled with confusion” [Vulgate, 
impleta confusione], he has “on a roore.” But for sediiio or 
tumultus he felt the need of a stronger term, and it is to him 
that we owe the introduction of uproar, coined in imitation 
of Dutch ^'oproer: uprore, tumult, commotion, mutiny, or 
sedition” (Hexham), or the synonymous Ger. aufruhr, as 
used by Luther. Shakespeare employs uproar in the origi- 
nal Biblical sense and even makes it into a verb : 


Nay, had I power, I should 
Pour the sweet nulk of concord into hell, 

Uproar the universal peace, confound 
All unity on earth. 

(Macbeth, iv, 3.) 


Wanton 

All writers on words are tempted to compare the uncer- 
tainty of word-life with that of human life and to wonder 
why one is taken and another left. It is possible to give a 
reasonable explanation of the ordinary phenomena of 
linguistic growth, but linguistic decay remains very much a 
mystery. We cannot even say that the verbal struggle for 
life results in the survival of the fittest, for it is often the 
most expressive and most vigorous terms that disappear 
from the literary language, to linger for a time in the dia- 
lects and then drop quite out of use. The same mystery 
attends the fate of prefixes and suffixes. The word answer 
is the only English survival of a Teutonic prefix still very 
flourishing in German as enU and cognate with Lat, anti 
106 



WANTON 


and Gr. avrL It is Anglo-Sax. andswarian^ to swear 
back, with which cf. Lat. respondere^ to pledge in return. The 
original strong sense survives in legal language. In midwife 
we have 4:he only instance of Anglo-Sax. mid^ with, cognate 
with Ger. mit The term means woman (cf- fishwife) 
standing by; cf. Ger. beifrau and Lat, obstetrix^ from obstare^ 
to stand over against. Shakespeare uses inchmeal (Tempest, 
ii, 2), and limb-meal (Cymbeline, ii, 4), but out of the large 
number of Anglo-Saxon and Mid. English compounds 
found with this useful suffix we have kept only the hybrid 
piecemeaL 

A prefix common to the Teutonic languages is the wan- 
of wanton. There are still about a dozen Danish words in 
van-y while Dutch has fewer than half a dozen in wan-. 
German has two only, and wanton is the sole English 
survivor. The prefix means “lacking.” It is related to 
wanty probably also to wane and to Lat. vanuSy empty. We 
find it in Ger. wahnsinny madness, for older wahnwitz, in 
which, by folk-etymology, wahuy delusion, has been 
substituted for the true prefix. 

Anglo-Saxon compounds in wan- are pretty numerous, 
but only one of them, wanspedy ill speed, poverty, survived 
into the Mid. English period, the rest being displaced by 
un- forms. Wan- seems, however, to have kept its vitality in 
the north and to have formed new compounds, the most 
widely used of which is wanchancyy uncanny, ill-omened, etc., 
common in Scottish vernacular literature : 

Wae worth that man wha first did shape 
That vile, wanchancie thing — a rape! ® 

It males guid fellows girn an’ gape 
Wi* chokin’ dread. 

(Burns, Puir Mailie’s Elegy.) 

^ The replacement of this word by withy which meant against, in 
opposition to (e.g. withstand), is curious. The mid- of other compounds 
means “middle,” e.g. ' originally stationed amidships, or 

midriff from Anglo-Sax. hrif, belly. 

* Rope. 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

Of several Mid. English formations in wan- which have 
had a literary life the most familiar is wanhope^ despair (cf. 
Dutch wanhoop). This is used by Chaucer: 

Wei ought I sterve ^ in wanhope and distress;® 

Farwelj my lif, my lust and my gladncsse, 

(A. 1249.) 

and is abundantly recorded, in its proper sense, up to the 
middle of the i6th century, after which it is wrongly read as 
wan (= faint, feeble) hope and misused accordingly. It is 
not found in Shakespeare or the Authorized Version and 
became obsolete in the 17th century. 

Wanton represents Mid. English wantowen^ or an unre- 
corded Anglo-Sax. wantogen^ the second element being the 
past participle of ieon^ to drag, draw, which, like its German 
cognate er-z^ehen, meant also to educate. Wantowen had a 
rival untoweUi with which cf. Ger. ungezogen^ naughty. It is 
impossible to say why in this one case wan- successfully 
withstood the pressure of ««-, but its isolated survival pro- 
vided a puzzle for the early etymologists, and gave Minsheu 
(1617) the opportunity for one of his most imaginative ex- 
planations: wanton: quasi want one, i.e. carens uno vel 
una.” Perhaps its resistance to analysis fitted it to receive 
a great many shades of meaning and made it a favourite 
with Shakespeare, who employs it in every sense from frolic- 
some to lascivious. In the Authorized Version it is always 
connected, as by Minsheu, with impudicity, but the earlier 
translators used it more freely, e.g. the ‘‘backsliding heifer®’ 
of Hosea iv. 16 is in GoverdaJe a “wanton cow.” 

Wassail 

The story that Roweua, the fair daughter of Hengest, 
used the phrase was heily be hale, in handing the cup to 
Vortigern, is first found in Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose 
Historia Britonum, compiled from Nennius (fl. c, 800), was 
probably finished c. 1 150. Geoffrey’s work was translated 

iDie. 

108 



WASSAIL 


into English by Layamon (c. 1200), and it is in Layamon 
that we first find the word in an English context : ‘'Laverd 
king wass hail,” along with Vortigern’s reply, “drinc hail.’’ 
Somewhat earlier, Wace, in his Roman de Ron, had used 
both words in a French context in describing the revelry 
in the English camp the night before Hastings. 

The Rowena story is an anachronism. There is no trace 
of these drinking salutations in early Teutonic literature* 
The practice seems to have arisen in England, and, as the 
early forms of wassail suggest, among the Danish part of the 
population. The Oxford Dictionary quotes an authority of 
c. 1190 to the effect that the English students at the Uni- 
versity of Paris were too much addicted to wessail and 
dringaiL 

Wassail very quickly acquired the sense of the medium 
used in health-drinking, especially the spiced ale of Yule- 
tide. It also became a verb, surviving in the ‘‘Here we 
come a-wassailing” of the old carol. It is now only a 
picturesque or playful archaism. One has heard indivi- 
duals described as “rather too fond of the wassail-bowl.” 

The Anglo-Saxon greeting wes Ml^ be hale, and the 
corresponding Old Norse expression are both recorded, 
though not in reference to health-drinking. Hal wes ^ tM 
is used in the Anglo-Saxon Gospels to render the Ave I of 
the Vulgate. Heil is similarly used in German, and Goth. 
hails by Ulfilas. The earliest records of wassail show that 
the second ele.**ent was not Anglo-Sax. hdly but the cognate 
Old Norse heil. 

The Old Norse form has survived in the nautical hail^ the 
greeting of ships passing one another at sea. Captain John 
Smith (1626) spells it halei “Dowse your top sayle, salute 
him for the sea; Hale him, whence your ship?” It is easy 
to see how the expression “to hail from” arose from this 
exchange of marine courtesies. 

The curious spelling whole rather disguises its connection 
^ Imperative of wesan^ to be. 


109 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

with the words already mentioned. It is for earlier hole^ 
hook, representing Anglo-Sax. hdl^ which had the double 
sense of healthy and complete. The Promptorium Par- 
vulorum (1440) glosses hool by ‘‘sanus, integer.” The 
former sense still survives, though currently replaced by 
healthy^ in Biblical language and in wholesome. The spelling 
with wh- of words beginning with Ao- is recorded in the 15th 
century, and appears to correspond to an altered pronuncia- 
tion still traceable in dialect. Tyndale has wholy for holy. 
In standard English the changed spelling, with now silent 
survives only in whole and another word not used by the 
best people, Hale^ used especially in collocation with 
hearty^ represents the north-country pronunciation. Heal 
is Anglo-Sax. Iwlariy to make hale, and, corresponding to 
weal and wealth, English once had heal and health : 

Daun John answcrdc, “Ccrtcs I am fayn (= glad) 

That yc in hccle are comcn hom agayn.** 

(Chaucer, B. 1539.) 

The Romans used one and the same word for bodily and 
mental health, as in Juvenal’s “mens sana in corpore 
sano,” which has been explained as a healthy mind in a 
body that can say “No!” The converted Teutons recog- 
nized a similar connection between the body and the soul. 
They rendered salus by their word for physical wholeness. 
Health, used by Wyclif for “salvation” in the Nunc Dimittis, 
still occurs in the same sense in the Authorized Version, 
e.g. Psalm ixvii. 2, and in the Book of Common Prayer, e.g. 
“There is no health in us.” They used for Saviour the 
present participle of the verb heal (this survives in Ger. 
Heiland), and an adjective meaning “healthy” for Lat. 
sacer, sanctus. Thus holy is Anglo-Sax. hdlig, with which cf. 
Ger. heilig, Old Norse heilagr, Goth, heilags,^ These words 
are pre-Christian in their religious sense, and it is thought 
that the idea of “integer” may have passed into that of proof 
against evil spirits. 

^ Not used in the Gothic Bible, but found in an inscription. 


no 



WEIRD 


Finally, from the adjective hdlig were formed a noun 
hdlga^ saint, and a verb hdlgian, to make holy. Via Mid. 
English forms in kaiw- these both became hallow. We still 
speak of Hallowe^en and All Hallows. Chaucer uses hallow 
of a saint’s shrine : 

Tharnic longen folk to goon on pilgrimages 
And palmeres for to seken straungc strondes, 

To feme (= distant) halwes, kowthe ^ in sondry londes. 

(Prologue, k 12.) 

Weird 

Our trick of using a noun as a qualifying epithet, as in 
‘‘choice fruit” or “prize idiot,” results in the creation of 
new adjectives. From the compound gamecock^ i.e. cock of 
the game (cock-fighting), has been evolved an adjective 
meaning plucky, intrepid. I recently heard a cross-word 
“fan,” unversed in word-history, protest against the unfair- 
ness of equating destiny and weird. The latter, in its current 
adjectival sense, was worked to death in the last decade of 
the 19th century, its popularity resulting, I fancy, from the 
untiring eagerness with which the schoolgirl prosecutes her 
search for new and expressive epithets. 

Worcester’s English Dictionary (1859) explains weird as 
“skilled in, or using, relating to, or derived from, witch- 
craft,” with no reference to its use other than as a noun 
(1522) in Gavin Douglas. It is not in Johnson (3rd ed. 
1765), nor in Bailey (2nd ed. 1736). Todd added it to his 
revised edition of Johnson (1827). He explains it as * ‘skilled 
in witchcraft,” but refers to its use by Gavin Douglas to 
render the Lat. fatum^ destiny. He also gives a quotation 
from Macbeth. Skinner’s Etymologicon (1673) includes it 
in a vocabulary “Vocum antiquarum Anglicarum, quae 
jam ante parentum aetatem in usu esse desierunt.” He 
correctly explains it as destiny, with the remark that it 
occurs “passim apud Dug. in ^En. Virg.” 

From all this we may infer, my dear Watson, that weirdy 

^ Known; cf. mcotdh. 

Ill 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

destiny, was a familiar word in early modem Scots; that, 
apart from Macbeth, it had disappeared from Elizabethan 
literary English; that the i8th century, which knew little 
of Shakespeare, knew not weird; that it came back into the 
poetic language of the 19th century transformed into an 
adjective; and that, in the latter part of that century, its 
meaning changed from witch-like to fantastic, odd, queer. 

If we go back to the beginning of its history, we find that 
Anglo-Saxon had a verb weorthan^ to happen, to become. 
This verb is common to the Teutonic languages (Dutch 
worden^ Ger. werden, Old Norse vertha^ Goth, wairthan)^ and 
is cognate with Lat. vertere^ to turn. It survives in the 
poetic “Woe worth the day!” (Ezekiel xxx. 2) . There was a 
related noun wyrd^ destiny, used by iElfric Grammaticus 
and by King Alfred. The corresponding Old Norse urthr 
was the name of one of the Norns, the Fates of Scandinavian 
mythology. The Anglo-Saxon word persisted in Mid. 
English, and Chaucer speaks of “the wirdes that we clcpen 
destinee” (Legend of Good Women, 1 . 1580); Gower 
(Confessio Amantis, Book iii) makes Nestor say that “it were 
a wonder wierd,^ to sien a King become an hierd.” 

Weird dropped out of early Modern English, perhaps 
because of the competition of the borrowed words /ate and 
destiny y but survived in the north. Shakespeare’s source for 
Macbeth was John Bellenden (11587), who translated into 
the vernacular Hector Boece’s Historia Scotorum. In it we 
read, “Makbeth and Banquho met be ye gait thre women 
clothit in elrage and uncouth weid (= dress ; cf. widow’s 
weeds). They were jugit be the pepill to be weird sisters.” 
Hence Shakespeare’s use of the term in Macbeth, where 
“weird sisters ” occurs repeatedly. That it was an unfami- 
liar word may be inferred from the fact that in the oldest 
editions it is printed weyard or weywardy is both a mono- 

^ To a modern ear and eye this suggests “a weird wonder,” but it 
means *‘a wonderful destiny.” Mid. English had an adjective wonder 
and an adverb zvonders, now corrupted to wondrous, 

112 



WERWOLF 


syllable and a disyllabic,^ and is even replaced by wizard in 
the later Folios. 

Did Shakespeare, but for whom the w'ord would have 
remained dead and buried, realize that Bellenden’s ^ ‘weird 
sisters” were “fate sisters,” just as we now speak of an “oil 
magnate” or a “cricket blue”? This must remain uncer-^ 
tain. At any rate the early 19th-century students of 
Shakespeare took weird for an adjective, and its original 
sense was lost. Except in one phrase. From Anglo-Sax. 
driogan, to perform, endure, resulted a common Mid. 
English verb dree. This disappeared from literary use, but 
persisted in northern dialect, e.g. it is used by Mrs. Gaskeii 
in her Lancashire tale, Mary Barton. In Mid. English it 
was commonly coupled with rveird^ destiny, and Scott 
reintroduced the phrase into literature: “Tell him the 
time's coming now and the weird's drec'd and the wheel's 
turmng” (Guy Mannering, ch. 46). 

Werwolf 

It is difficult for a modern to realize what a place of terror 
the world was for the ancients and the Middle Ages, as it 
still is for children, savages and the uneducated rich’® : 

Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas, 

Nocturnos lemurcs, portentaque Thessala rides? 

(Horace, Ep. II, ii, 208.) 

Of all the superstitions which haunted primitive man, none 
is more widespread or more gruesome than that of the 
man-beast, whether vampire or werwolf. 

The vampire does not, it is true, assume beast form, but it 
lives on human blood. The word reached Western Europe 
in the i8th century from Hungarian. Pegge, the famous 
antiquary, observes somewhat naively, “The accounts we 

^ **Saw you the we-ird sisters?” — ^“No, my lord” (Macbeth, iv, i). 

®Thc frequenter of the doss-house has no objection to cubicle 13, 
but hotels and steamship companies that cater for the wealthy com- 
monly omit this number from their rooms and cabins. 


II3 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


have of the Hungarian vampires are most incredible,®^ 
The Hungarian word is from Slavonic and the Slavs got it 
from Turkish. In our own day the name has been applied 
to a type of film-star, now usually vamp,^ which appar« 
ently came into use too late for inclusion in the Oxford 
Dictionary. Vampire is still used figuratively and werwolf 
had a temporary vogue at the end of World War II in 
connection with a German ‘Resistance movement*® which 
did not materialize. 

The werwolf is a Common Teutonic possession. The 
etymological explanation given by Verstegan, in his 
Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (1605), is substantially 
correct : “ Were^ our ancestors used somtyme in steed of man^ 
yet should it seeme that were was moste comonly taken for a 
maried man. But the name of man is now more known and 
more generally used in the whole Teutonic toung than the 
name of were, Werewulf: this name remaineth stil known in 
the Teutonic and is as much as to say ‘man-wolf,® the 
Greeks expressing the very lyke in Lycanthropos (Gr. 
AvKavOpiaTTosy lit. wolf-man), Ortelius, not knowing what 
were signified, because in the Netherlands it is now cleane 
out of use, except thus composed with wolf doth misinter- 
prete it according to his fancie. The were-wolves arc cer- 
taine sorcerers, who, having anoynted their bodyes with an 
oyntmcnt which they make by the instinct of the Devil, and 
putting on a certaine inchanted girdel, do not only unto the 
view of others seeme as wolves, but to their own thinking 

^ Another vamp, part of a shoe, is really, despite its brevity, a com- 
pound word. It is short for vampey^ Old Fr. avanUpie, front part of the 
foot. From it was formed a verb to vampy to patch up (a boot, or a 
literary composition). By the i8th century this was used of “patching 
up” a musical accompaniment. 

* This should be wer, a word of wider diffusion in the Aryan languages 
than man. It is found in all the Teutonic languages, and is cognate with 
Lat. wV, Gaelic featy Welsh gwr^ Sanskrit vtra, Wer died out in early 
Mid. English, but stirvives historically in loergildy payment for having 
killed a man. 



WERWOLF 


have both the shape and nature of woiveSj so long as they 
weare the said girdei. And they do dispose themselves as 
very wolves, in wurrying and killing, and moste of humaine 
creatures. Of such sundry have bin taken and executed in 
sundry partes of Germanic and the Netherlands. One 
Peter Stump, for being a were-wolf, and having killed 
thirteen children, two women, and one man, was at Bedbur 
not far from Cullen (Cologne) in the yeare 1 589 put unto a 

very terrible death He dyed with very great remorce, 

desyring that his body might not be spared from any tor- 
ment, so his soule might be saved. The were-wolf (so called 
in Germanic) is in France called loupgarou/" 

A much earlier authority than Verstegan is quoted by 
Falk and Torp, s.v. varulv, “Vidimus enim frequenter in 
Anglia per iunationes homines in lupos mutari, quod 
hominum genus gerulfos Galli nominant, Anglici vero were- 
wolf dicunt: were enim Anglice ‘virum’ sonat, ulf ‘lupum’ 
(Gervasc of Tilbury, 12th century). The Teutonic word 
passed into Old French as garou,^ and, when the real sense 
of the word was obscured, was elaborated into the pleonastic 
^Houp-garou: a mankind wolfe” (Cotgrave). 

The disappearance of the simple were led Mid. English 
writers to explain the first syllable as ware, and, as late as 
1576, Turberville tells us, “Such wolves are called ‘war- 
wolves,* bicause a man had neede to be ware of them.** A 
similar idea seems to account for archaic Ger. wehrwolf 
associated with the cognate wehren, to protect, take 
heed. 

Verstegan does not appear to recognize the superstition 
as one then existing in England. Although we went on 
burning witches and warlocks up to the i8th century, we 
appear to have found the werwolf too steep.* The Oxford 

1 Marie de France says, **Garwalf ( ? garwolf) rapclent K Normand.’* 
Teutonic regularly becomes Fr. g- or gu-, 

• This was perhaps pardy due to the disappearance of the wolf from 
England, whde it was stiU a terror to Continental countries. 


1 15 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

Dictionary finds practicaily no record of the word in the 
17th and 1 8th centuries. The superstition is not men- 
tioned in Bourae^s Antiquitates Vuigares (1725) or in 
Brandis Observations thereon (1776). Our werwolf in 
factj really the German word, reintroduced c. 1800 in con- 
nection with the craze for ‘‘Gothic tales” of the fiesh- 
creeping type. Scott writes in 1816 of “all the German 
superstitions of nixies, oak-kings/ werwolves, hobgoblins, 
black spirits and white, blue spirits and grey” (Antiquary, 
ch. 25). 

Wiseacre 

The workings of folk-etymology are mysterious. It is 
natural that a foreign and unfamiliar word should be 
twisted into something that looks native and intelligible. 
Our great-grandfathers were more familiar with sparrow- 
grass than with asparagus: ^^Sparrow-grass is so general that 
asparagus has an air of stiffness and pedantry” (Waiker^s 
Pronouncing Dictionary, 1791). But why the -acre of 
wiseacre ? I can only conjecture that it may have been sug- 
gested by the frequent occurrence of this word in familiar 
surnames, such as Goodacre.® Oldacre, Greenacre, etc., 
and especially Blackacre and Whitacre, once legal names 
for fictitious properties.® 

Wiseacre came to us from obsolete Dutch wijs-seggher^ as 
though “wise sayer.” The first English lexicographer to 
list it is Blount (1656), who explains it as “one that knows 
or tells truth, but we commonly use it in malam partem^ 
for a fool.” It occurs, however, in Gotgrave as one of the 
equivalents of ^fol: a foole; assc, goose, calfe, dotterell, 
woodcocke; noddie, cokes, goosecap, coxcombe, dizard, 
peagoose, ninnie, naturall, idcot, wisakers (xfr),” Kilian 

^ Probably the ErMng (p. 47, n, 3) is meant. 

® In such names acre = field. 

* Widow Blackacre, in Wycherley’s Plain Dealer, is a ^‘petulant, 
litigious widow.” 

116 



WISEACRE 


(1620) gives the Dutch form as a synonym ^^mmr-segghtr 
(= truth-sayer) : augur, divinus, praesagus, fatiloquus, 
fatidicus, harioius, vates, mantes, haruspex, exstipex, meta- 
scopus, chiromantis, chiromanticus, physiognomus/' i.e, a 
general dealer in magic and spells. From the fact that 
it is not in Shakespeare we may infer that it was not in 
common use before the 17th century. In Phillips it is 
vulgarly taken for a fool”; in Grose (1785) ‘‘a foolish 
conceited felow.” 

The Dutch word is borrowed from Ger. weissager^ from 
weissageriy to prophesy. This verb is also a product of very 
early folk-etymology. It is Old High Ger. mssagon^ as 
though from ivts, wise, and sago, speaker, sayer, but it 
is really formed from Old High Ger. unzago^ prophet, 
which is cognate with Anglo-Sax. witega^ wise man, pro- 
phet, one who knows: ‘‘Thes is sothiice witega, the on 
middangeard ^ cymth” (John vi. 14). Thus there is only a 
distant connection with weise, wise, and none with sagen^ 
to say. 

Ger. weissager is in sense equivalent to wahrsager^ truth-* 
sayer. The corresponding English word is sooth-sayety from 
Anglo-Sax. sothy true, which survives also in the archaic 
forsooth.^ Hence also the verb to soothe y which we now asso- 
ciate with both literal and figurative syrup. Its earlier 
sense was to calm irritation by acquiescence, to interject the 
emollient “Yea, forsooth,” which preceded the contempor- 
ary ‘ Just so, ” “ Quite right, ’ ’ etc. F alstaff describes Master 
Dombledow the draper as a “whoreson Achitophel, a 
rascally yea-forsooth knave” (2 Henry IV, i, 2). This is 
sometimes explained by commentators as characterizing 
the draper’s vulgar phraseology, but there is no evidence 

^ This Common Teutonic name for earth, the middle-dwelling (lit. 
yard) between heaven and hell, survived as middejv-erd in Mid. English, 
and as mdMe-erd up to the i6th century in Scottish. 

® Now usually ironical, but in Mid. English equivalent to the BibHcal 
“verily.*’ 


II7 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

that ^ithtt yea qt forsooth ever bore the stamp of vulgarity. 
As a picture of the obsequious tradesman, washing his hands 
with invisible soap and assenting to all his patron’s remarks, 
it is as effective as Mr. Ghucks’s impressionist sketch of a 
waiter: ‘‘A damned trencher-scraping, napkin-carrying, 
shilling-seeking, up-an-down-stairs son of a bitch.’’ The 
association with Achitophei confirms this view, for the latter 
was pre-eminently one of those who, according to Lyly’s 
Euphues, ‘‘soothe young youths in all their sayings, uphold 
them in all their doings/’ 

Yeoman 

The history of yeoman runs curiously parallel to that 
of the squire.^ Each began as a subordinate or attendant 
and ended as a freeholder, his land being originally held in 
connection with military services or obligations. In royal 
or noble households tht yeoman ranked between the sergeant 
and the groom (sergeant, yeoman, groom of the buttery, 
etc.). In the military hierarchy the order was knight, 
squire, yeoman, an order more or less preserved by the 
titled landowners, country gentry and yeomen farmers of 
pre-War days. Chaucer (Prologue, 11 . 43-117) has drawn 
of the three types portraits that will last for all time. 

“Yeoman’s service” is one of the numerous picturesque 
phrases first found in Shakespeare, and revived, after two 
centuries of disuse, by Scott: 

I once did hold it, as our statists do, 

A baseness to write fair, and labour’d much 
How to forget that learmng; but, sir, now 
It did me yeoman’s service. 

(Hamlet, v, 2.) 

It is uncertain whether Shakespeare was using an already 
current expression, of the same type as “knight’s service” 
(i.e, service connected with the tenure of land), or whether 
iQld Fr. $sctder (now icuytr, equerry), Vulgar Lat. smtanus, 

shield-bearer. 

I18 



YEOMAN 


he coined it in imitation of the latter, in the same way as he 
made Beatrice coin trencherman (Much Ado, i, i) on the 
analogy of bowman and spearman. 

The official sense of yeoman long survived in the titles of 
many royal officials, and, by analogy with ‘‘yeoman of the 
buttery, etc.,” we find the hangman’s assistant humorously 
called the “yeoman of the cord.” The Navy still has the 
rank of “yeoman of the signals,” but the only royal yeomen 
are now the “Yeomen of the Guard,” a corps raised at the 
accession of Henry VII (1485), and derisively called, since 
the 17th century, beef-eaters (see p. 5). 

Yeoman is a fine word. Like other fine words it has almost 
dropped out of use. It suggests, I think, to most people, the 
picture of a bluff and stalwart Englishman, a stout fiiend 
and an indomitable foe. It was the “mighty bow” which 
Chaucer puts into the hand of his yeoman that won our great 
battles in the Middle Ages. Later on, the “yeoman of Kent, 
with his yearly rent (income)” was the social backbone of 
the country. Yeomanly and yeoman-like once had the same 
favourable connotation as sailorly and seaman-like: “The. 
praise of the yeoman as the best type of Englishman, holding 
society together, neither cringing to the high nor despising 
his poorer neighbours, hearty, hospitable, fearless, supplies 
a constant motif of literature under Tudors and Stuarts” 
(Trevelyan, English Social History). There is, so far as I 
know, no Continental equivalent, for the class hardly 
existed outside England: “Other nations, Englishmen 
boasted, had no such middle class, but only an oppressed 
peasantry and the nobles and men-at-arms who robbed 
them” (ibid.). 

The etymology of yeoman (Mid. English also yemen^ yo- 
man) has been much discxissed. Minsheu (1617) says, 

Yeoman seemeth to be one word made by contraction of 
two Danish ^ words {yong men)f mentioning, as he usually 
docs, half a dozen other possibilities. Spelman (1687) also 
^ It is better to substitute Anglo-Sax. geong mam. 


09 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

suggests Anglo-Sax. geong, young, "\ujod juvenem significat, 
iidcmque sunt qui in Ganuti Legibus de Foresta junior es 
appeliantur, antiquis pueri, Gallis valeiiJ^ This etymology 
has been recently revived by the Oxford Dictionary, which 
points out the correspondence between two variant texts of 
Langland: ‘‘Yonge men to renne ^ and to ride” (Piers 
Plowman, A. iii, 207), and “Youmen to yernen ^ and to 
ride*’ (ibid., B. iii, 213). For the contraction it compares 
south-west dialect yeomath, young math (= aftermath, 
second mowing). 

It may be noted also yeoman is commonly glossed by 
valettus in medieval dictionaries, and that valet^ for which 
Cotgravc gives yeoman, means a “junior” vassal. The 
Gathoiicon Anglicum (1483) explmns yeoman by ephebus^ 
i.c. Gr. a young citizen from eighteen to twenty, a 

military tiro. 

It seems not unreasonable to suppose that the Norman 
escuier and the English yeoman were almost the same thing, 
and that the higher position assumed by the former was due 
to his belonging to the ruling caste. German junker 
(^s=zjung herr) offers a parallel to the formation of yeoman, 
while its sense-history is exactly that of squire. 

Yon 

We are all familiar with beyond dead yonder, but, except for 
occasional poetic reminiscences, such as “yon little stream 
hard by,” we are hardly conscious of the fact that yon, still 
flourishing in the dialects, has every right to be recognized 
as a regular demonstrative adjective forming a convenient 
contrast with this. This and yon properly correspond, in 
function as in origin, to the German demonstratives dieser 
and jener, the latter of which also tends to become disused in 
Modern German. 

The word (Anglo-Sax. geori) is common to the Teutonic 
^ Both these words mean “run.” 

120 



YON 


languages (cf. Dutch gene, Goih, jains), and its derivatives 
and compounds can also be paralleled j e.g., corresponding 
to our SiTchmc yonside we find jenseits in German and hinsida 
in Swedish. The vitality of this good old word was brought 
home to me many years ago at a North and South Rugger 
match. My neighbour, a Yorkshireman, expressed his 
disapproval of the number of free kicks awarded to the 
South by the oft-repeated comment, ‘‘He’s the lousiest 
referee I Ve ever seen, is yon.” 

The corresponding adverb yond is obsolete in literary 
English, except in the works of writers who try to reproduce 
the dialect of their characters. It is, however, frequent 
in Shakespeare : 

The fringed curtains of thine eye advance 
And say what thou scest yond. 

(Tempest, i, 2.) 

Shakespeare also uses both yon and yond regularly in the 
same demonstrative sense as our Yorkshire friend. 

When a writer attempts to use the language of a bygone 
age, he should have his proofs read by a philologist. 
Otherwise he is likely to give himself away. Scott did so 
frequently, as did also Chatterton. Browning, in Pippa 
Passes, was guilty of perhaps the most startling verbal 
“gaffe” ever perpetrated by a writer. The example of 
deliberate archaism was set by Spenser, who admired and 
imitated Chaucer, In a Tudor and Stuart Glossary by 
Skeat and Mayhew, published in 1914, occurs the entry 
^yond: this word occurs in the following passages. ... It 
seems to be a synonym of ‘fierce.’ ” 

Here are the passages, in full : 

Then like a lyon, which hath long time saught 
His robbed whelpes and at the last them fond 
Emongst the shepheard swaynes, then wexeth wood ^ and yond. 

(Faerie Queenc, II, viii, 40.) 

^ See p. ti. 2. 


I 


I2I 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


Not haifc so fast the wicked Myrrha fled 
From dread of her revenging fathers hond. 

Nor halfe so fast to save her maydenhed 
Fled ftarefuli Daphne on th* ^gaean strond. 

As Florimeli fled from that monster yond, 

To reach the sea ere she of him were raught.^ 

(Ibid., in, vii, 2 &,) 

Let none forget Obizo of Tuscan lond, 

Well worthy praise for many a worthy deed, 

Nor those three brethren, Lombards fierce and yond, 
Achilles, Sforza, and stern Falamecd. 

(Fairfax’s Tasso, i, 55.) 

Fairfax published his translation of Tasso’s Jerusalem 
Delivered in 1600, i.e. about ten years after the appearance 
of the first three books of the Faerie Queene. He evidently 
copied Spenser, whose yond, like his preposterous derring-do, 
is due to a misunderstanding of Chaucer. The Oxford 
Dictionary points out that the phrase which misled him was 
probably from the Clerk of Osrford’s Tale of Patient Grizel, 
in which he took the Mid. English adverb yond for a post- 
posed adjective. The passage occurs in Chaucer’s “envoy” 
to the story, advising wives to show spirit: 

Ye archiwyvcs stondeth at defense, 

Syn ye be strong as is a greet camaille, 

Ne suffreth nat that men yow doon offense; 

And sklendre wyves, ficblc, as in bataille, 

Beth egre as is a tygre yond in Ynde 
Ay dappeth as a mille, I yow consaille. 

(Chaucer, E. 1195^) 

* Reached* 

® Be fierce as is a tiger yonder in India. 


122 



Chapter II 

ESSAYS IN ETYMOLOGY 
Akimbo 

For this curious word, first recorded c. 1400, the Oxford 
Dictionary proposes no etymology. It mentions, only to 
reject them, two unlikely guesses that have been made. 
Webster mentions one of these, viz. Old Norse keng-boginn^ 
as a possibility. The earliest record is from the Mid. 
English Tale of Beryn: “The boost set his hond in kene- 
bowe.” Later we find a-kenbow^ and the word occurs, with 
various spellings, throughout the 17th and i8th centuries, 
settling down by the 19th to the present form. It is gener- 
ally used of a bullying, provocative attitude, like French 
‘ies poings sur les hanches,” which automatically suggests a 
vituperative fishwife. That it was regarded as a colloquial- 
ism or vulgarism may be inferred from the fact that the 
early lexicographers — ^Bailey, Johnson, Todd, Richardson — 
only record it under the word kimbo, of which more anon, 
Grose, in his slang dictionary, entitled a Classical Diction- 
ary of the Vulgar Tongue ( 1 785), describes it as “cant,” and 
explains that to “set one’s arms a kimbaWy vulgarly pro- 
nounced a kimboy is to rest one’s hands on the hips keeping 
the elbows square, and sticking out from the body, an insol- 
ent, bullying attitude.” It occurs frequently, however, in 
the early Latin-English dictionaries of the 17th century as 
the only possible rendering of Lat. ansafus. 

The best way to solve the etymology of a word of this kind 
is to adopt the comparative method. How do other nations 
express the attitude? We will start with Lat. ansatusy lit. 
furnished with handles, as in vas ansaturriy a pitcher with two 
“ears.” Ansa is explained by Cooper as the “eare or 

123 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


handle of a cuppe or pot.” Plautus, our chief literary 
authority for colloquial Latin, has (Persa, II, v, 7) msatus 
homo, which Cooper renders “a man with his armes on 
kenb5w.” It is evident that this attitude has some sugges- 
tion of a vessel with projecting handles! So we find in 
French, bras courbez en anse: with armes a-kemboll” 
(Cotgrave) ; ‘77 marche, pliant les bras en forms d'anse: he walks 
with his arms on kembow” (Miege, 1679); le pot d 

deux arises: to set one’s arms a kembo, to strut” (Boyer, 
1702), Mathurin R^gnier (f 1613) describes a bore as 
‘‘ayant, ainsi qu’un pot, les mains sur les roignons” (Sat. 
viii). Kilian’s Dutch-Latin Dictionary (1620) renders 
koperefi pot^ lit. copper pot, by ^^homo ansatus^ i.e. qui incedit 
utroque brachio in ansarum modum ad latera applicato.’^ 
Ludwig explains ‘‘to set his arms a kembo” as “die arme in 
die seite setzen, wie ein topf mit zw’ei henckeln,” i.e. like a 
pot with two handles, and Sch wan’s German-French 
Dictionary ( 1 783) gives, as the equivalent of “einen henkel- 
topf machen,” the French “faire le pot a deux anses,” lit. 
to make a pot with two handles. Finally, Seoane’s Spanish- 
English Dictionary (1854) ^^andar enjarras: to set one’s 
arms a-kimbo,” a.jarra being, according to Oudin’s Span- 
ish-French Dictionary (1660), “un pot qui est ventru et 
rond et k deux anses,” i.e. an amphora. 

I have not pursued the quest into any more European 
languages, but I think these examples make it very likely 
that kimbo had originally the meaning of a jug-handle or 
“pot-ear,” Lat. ansa. This seems to have been Dryden’s 
interpretation of the word. ^ 


^ In his translation of Virgirs Eclogue iii he renders ansa by “kimbo 
handle.” It would be possible to quote from various writers examples 
of the akimbo attitude being suggestive of an amphora. As recently as 
1886 Hardy describes a group of staring rustics, “their knuckles being 
mostly on their hips, an attitude which lent them the aspect of two- 
handled mugs” (The Mayor of Casterbridge, Gh. 36). 


124 



ANLAGE 


It mays I think, be assumed that the second element is 
boWy used in older English of anything bent (elboWy rainbow^ 
saddle-bow y etc.)? but the first is uncertain. My own opinion 
is that it is a vessel. We now think of a can as metallic, 
but the name was originally applied in English, like its 
cognates in other languages, to any vessel for holding liquids. 
In the 1388 version of the Wyciifite Bible the ''six water- 
pots’* of the Marriage in Cana are “sixe stonun Cannes, ’’and 
Holyoak explains amphora as "a can with two eares.” 
Hence it is obvious that can-bow would be a very good equi- 
valent for pot-handle. That such a compound does not 
happen to be on record is hardly a serious objection. It is 
not a word likely to get into literature. The further phone- 
tic changes are normal. If the following quotation from 
Thomas’s Latin Dictionary (1644) were only two centuries 
older, it would be conclusive: ^^Ansatus homo (Plant.): one 
that in bragging manner stroweth up and down with his 
armes a-canne-bow.” 

Anlace 

Although this name for a medieval dagger has been ob- 
solete since c. 1500, its occurrence in Chaucer’s Prologue has 
made it familiar to modern readers and has led to various 
theories as to its origin. It is found, as a picturesque re- 
vival, in Scott and Byron. Chaucer uses it in his description 
of the Franklin: 

An anlaas {vau anelas) and a gipser ^ al of silk 
Heeng at his girdel, 

(Prologue, 1 . 357,) 

The Oxford Dictionary notes that it occurs several times. 
Latinized as aneladuSy in Matthew Paris (13th century), finds 
"no traces of it in any Continental language,” and defines it 
as "a short two-edged knife or dagger, broad at the hilt and 
tapering to the point.” This definition seems to be due to 
J. R. Planche, Somerset herald, whose History of British 
^ Pouch, from Fr. g^becUriy game-bag. 


125 



WORDS AXGIENT AND MODERN 

Costume was published in ’1834. It is quite possible that 
antiquaries recognize the anlace under this descriptioiij but 
I take leave to doubt whether the medieval knight would 
have done so. 

Before discussing this point, or the Oxford Dictionary’s 
statement as to the absence of the word from Continental 
languages, it is interesting to see what earlier etymologists 
have to say. In Du Cange, we find, ^^anelacius: culteUus 
brevior, sica (Matth. Paris). Vox Ghaucero famiiiaris, 
Ab anuio seu anello, quo ea sica vcl ejusdem capulus 
insertus gestabatur, sic dictum suspicatur Carolus de 
Aquino ^ in Lex. Milit. Germanis laz olim latus significabat; 
hinc anelacius Schiltero ^ est telum adlaterale.” 

The first suggestion is plausible, as a dagger might well 
be furnished with a suspensory ring, but it is negatived by 
the fact that the ending ^acitis, •‘acia is only used to form 
augmentatives or ‘‘pejoratives.” An Old Fr. anelas^ from 
anel (now anneau)^ could only mean a big ring. Schilter is 
quite right as to Lat. latus, side, having become laz^ though 
the ‘‘Germani” have of course nothing to do with the word. 
Laz is Old Provencal,* and occurs in a passage which is 
curiously germane to our subject: 

Sanct Pedre sok veniiar lo vol; 

Estrais lo fer que al laz og.* 

(Passion du Christ, loth century.) 

But, even supposing that iBrom .at laz could be formed an 
unrecorded Provenqal noun anelaz, which is not possible, 
we should hardly expect to find a Provencal word current 
in English as early as Matthew Paris’s ‘‘genus cultelli quod 
vulgariter anelacius dicitur.” 

^The Italian Carlo d* Aquino, author of an unfinished Lexicon 
Mill tare (2724-7). 

® Johann Schilter, German philologist (f 1705). 

® In Old French it is lez, wbenCe the preposition lis, beside, near, in 
such place-names as Pkssis 4 is-Tours, 

^ Saint Peter alone wished to avenge him: 

He drew the sword which he had at his side. 

126 



ANLACE 


SMnnerj in his ‘‘Etyrnologicon vocum omnium anti- 
quaram quae usque a Wilhelmo Victore invalueruntj et jam 
ante parentum aetatem in usu esse desierunt^’ (1671)3 in- 
cludes anelace, with the remark, “Nescio an sic dictum a 
capulo annulis instructo.” Most word-hunters of the 17th 
and 1 8th centuries also record it, but without attempting to 
solve its etymology. 

I fancy that Chaucer himself analysed anelas as '"on a 
lacc/’ Of the Shipman he tells us : 

A daggere hangynge on a laas had he 

Aboute his nekke under his arm adoun. (Prologue, I. 392.) 

This etymology is also dubiously suggested by Skeat. 

The true explanation is that Mid. Eng. anelas and Anglo- 
Lat. anelacitLs are metathetic forms of the quite common Old 
French word alenas, a dagger, of which Du Cange and 
Godefroy give examples from the 12th century onward. 
Metathesis of Un is not uncommon, e.g. It. alenare and Old 
Fr. aiener^ to breathe, are from Vulgar Lat. alenarey for 
classical an{h)elarey to pant. Old Fr. alenas is an augmenta- 
tive of Fr. alenSy awl, just as coutelaSy cutlass, is an augmenta- 
tive of Old Fr. coutel (now couteau), knife. In Old French 
and Mid. English, as in other languages, the names of im- 
plements used for puncturing insensitive material were often 
applied todmplements used for puncturing the human skin. 
We find both bodkin and awl in the sense of dagger. So also 
puncheon (now usually reduced to punch) and its French ori- 
ginal poingon. Both Barbour and Wyntoun speak of Caesar 
as stabbed to death with "puncheons,” while early English 
writers generally use "bodkin” in reference to the same 
tragedy. It. stilettOy properly a small stilus or writing 
implement, is another example. 

Fr, aUne is from Old High Ger. alansUy alesna, a derivative 
of ala (now Ger. ahle)y cognate with our awly Old Norse 
alfy Dutch aaly and ultimately related to the synonymous 
Sanskrit dra. 


127 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

In Du Cange will be found several other derivatives^ e.g. 
''cultelius allendis: pugiunculus, sica ad instar subuiae (i.e. 
shaped like an awl), nostris dim aknas,^^ with an extract 
from a 14 th-century regulation forbidding the carrying of 
these weapons at Marseilles. Godefroy gives the Old 
French forms aienaz, alesnaZi deinas, with examples ranging 
from the 1 2 th to the 15th century. 

This etymology suggests that the anlace was not a bladed 
dagger with a fine point, but a tapering weapon of stiletto 
form, in fact an elongated awL The medieval knight, in his 
metallic sheathing, was as impervious as a lobster. Even 
when he was completely ^‘knocked out,’* his final elimina- 
tion could only be accomplished by the help of a kind of tin- 
opener, usually called a misericorde or dagger of mercy. 
I suggest that the denas was an improved misericorde, of a 
strength and solidity suited to a special purpose. In a pass- 
age from Guillaume Guyart (1305) we read of a warrior, 
who, having laid his enemy low, proceeds to give the final 
touches: 

Un alenas en sa main 
Cherche des armcures Testre 
Pour lui ocirc ct afincr.^ 

The Oxford Dictionary also quotes from the Aunturs of 
Arthur (c. 1420) — 

Opon his cheverounc befom 
Stodc as a unicorn. 

Ais scharpc as a thorn 
An nanlas * of stele — 

evidently referring to the solid spike protruding from the 
metal frontlet of a medieval warhorse. 

As the use of gunpowder became general, the fighting- 
man began to shed his panoply piece by piece, and the 
anlace^ having outlived its usefulness, ceased to exist as the 
name of a specialized implement. 

^ With an anlace in his hand he seeks the joint of the armour to kill 
him and finish him off. 

® Cf. mwi from an iwt and Mash from Mid. Eng. atim ash, 

128 



BLOODY 


Bloody 

In Ballantyne’s Coral Island, one of the characters is a 
repentant pirate called Bloody Bill. When, at the age of 
ten, I lent this treasured volume to a school-fellow, it was 
returned with the peccant adjective carefully obliterated 
throughout by the blacklead pencil of an austere parent. 
In those days it would have been necessary to apologize for 
discussing the etymology of the dreadful word, monopol- 
ized, as it then was, by the rougher type of working-man. 
Even the policeman, giving evidence in court, used to 
testify delicately that the prisoner had “called Mm a 

^ 1 liar.” There is a story, already ancient, of a toiler, 

who, left cold by the election poster “One man, one vote,” 
was stirred to enthusiasm on hearing the explanation, 
“One bloody man, one bloody vote.” Mr. Mencken, who 
serves up this chestnut in his American Language, quite 
ruins the effect by omitting the final replique, “Then why 
don’t it say so ?” This reminds me of the masterly explana- 
tion of capitalism that I heard some fifty years ago from a 
large and beery “four-wheeler” exhorting a taciturn and 
unconvinced “hansom” : — “And where d’ye s’pose they got 
their bloody money from? Why! robbed it out o’ the 
bloody people.” Marxism in a nutshell! 

Now that bloody^ printed in full, has become a feature of 
the vocabulary of the best-seller, whether dramatist, poet or 
novelist, there can be no objection to discussing its origin. 
The delusion that it is a corruption of by^r Lady ^ seems in- 
eradicable. It crops lip as regularly as the superstition that 
derives cabal from the initials of Charles IFs five ministers, 
and has as little foundation in fact. 

^ This Victorian delicacy is apparently not quite obsolete: ‘‘Defending 
solicitor, ‘Did you hear the conductress use the word h . . . Witness, 
T don*t think she used many other words * ** (Daily Telegraph, Nov. 8, 
1945), 

®An interjection very common in Shakespeare, in no way corre- 
sponding in use to bloody. 


129 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

What we know about bloody is that in the oldest examples 
it is adverbial, corresponding to the awfully^ thundering^ 
beastly^ of modern slang, and that up to about 1800 it was 
inoffensive, as, according to Mr. Mencken, it still is in the 
United States. Swift writes to Stella (May 29, 17^4)? 
was bloody hot walking to-day”; in 1742, the blameless 
Richardson uses ‘‘bloody passionate” in Pamela, and at a 
later date Sir Waiter Scott found that sitting for his bust 
was “bloody cold work.” It is very common in English c. 
1680 in the phrase “bloody drunk,” which leads the Oxford 
Dictionary to suggest derivation from blood, in its Stuart 
sense of man of rank and fashion (cf. “drunk as a lord”). 

It seems, at any rate, likely that some such association 
may have coloured its use at the period in question; but, if 
we compare the use of Fr. sanglant, Ger. blulig and Dutch 
bloedig, we see that we merely have to do with an expletive 
instinctively chosen for its grisly and repellent sound and 
sense. In Dutch “een bioedige boon” is a bitter insult, 
what could be called in French “un sanglant outrage.” In 
Moliere’s Precieuses Ridicules, Madeion describes the 
deception practised on herself and her cousin as “une 
sanglante piece.” Voltaire, in his Commentaire sur Cor- 
neille, writes, “La prinqesse Henriette joua un tour bien 
sanglant (a bloody trick 1 ) k Corneille, quand elle le fit 
travaiiler k Berenice,” and the word is still used with injure, 
reproche, outrage, etc. If we go still farther back, we find, in a 
14th-century report of a marital dispute, that “elle Fappela 
sanglant sourd et lui Fappela sanglajite ordure.” In 1270 
the “vlguier” of Beziers addressed recalcitrant tax-payers 
in terms which the chronicler renders in Latin as follows: 
“O rustic! sanguinolenti, vos dabitis, velitis vel non.” It is 
even recorded that Joan of Arc applied the epithet sanglant 
to her page, when he failed to rouse her in time for a brush 
with the enemy. 

German biut is still used as an intensive prefix, e.g. 
hlutarm means “miserably poor,” and die archaic hlutdkh 



BLOODY 


might be rendered in robust English by ‘'bloody thief.’’ 
"Das ist mein blutiger ernst” is fairly polite German for "I 
seriously (Shavian bloody-well) mean what I say.” So there 
is no need to build up fantastic theories in order to account 
for the word with which we are dealing. 

The adverbial use^ for bloodily, is due to an instinct w^hich 
tends to drop -ly from a word already ending in -y. The 
oldest example of this instinct is the word very, which is the 
Old French adjective verai (now vrai ) . It is still occasionally 
an adjective, as in "the very thing,” etc., and the adverb 
verily survives in Biblical English. But we should not speak 
of a "verily nice girl,” though, unless we have been in 
America, we should speak of a "really nice girl” rather 
than of a "real nice girl.” Thus we say "pretty well” not 
"prettily well,” "jolly rich” not "jollily rich.” It is obvious 
that, if the lady in Mr. Shaw’s Pygmalion had used 
the logically correct "not bloodily likely” instead of the 
accepted "not bloody likely,” her sparkling contribution to 
the dialogue would have suggested a sobriety test at the 
police-station. Similarly, Mr. Masefield’s beautiful line, 
"I’ll bloody burn his bloody ricks,” ^ would lose all its 
rhythm and much of its charm, if the correct adverb were 
substituted before "burn.” 

The earliest record in the Oxford Dictionary is "bloody 
drunk, ’ ’ from Etherege’s Man of Mode (1676). There is an 
older example in John Marston’s Faun (1606), in which a 
character is described as "cruelly eloquent and bluddiiy 
learned.” Here we have the original adverbial form, while 
both date and context exclude the “drunk as a lord” 
theory. The use of cruelly in the same line, like our modern 
awfully, frightfully, etc., also helps to support my thesis. Of 
about the same date are the following lines, quoted in the 
Times Literary Supplement (Dec. 0.0, 1923) from the old 
play of Sir Thomas More, some parts of which are attributed 
to Shakespeare: 


131 


^ The Everlasting Mercy. 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

O power, what art thou in a madmans eies ? 

Thou mak’st the plodding idiot bloody wise. 

Burgee 

The name of this flag, familiar to yachtsmeHj is not 
recorded till 1848 by the Oxford Dictionaryj, which suggests 
no etymology. It has the appearance of belonging to the 
class oi marquee^ Chinee^ etc,, that is, of false singulars due to a 
word ending in a sibilant being mistaken for a plural. I had 
long been convinced of its connection with Fr. bourgeois^ in 
its old sense of shipmaster, when a communication from Mr. 
Albert Matthews of Boston (U.S.A.) to Notes and Queries 
(Jan. 25, 1913) supplied the missing link. 

Mr. Matthews gave tw^o early quotations. The first, in a 
letter written (June, 1653) from Flushing by Bishop John 
Bramhall to the Duke of Ormonde, runs, “By ill-luck or 
ill-messengers or both we have not had one single prize yet 
come into these parts since I came here. And our Dutch 
owners begin to be startled because Burgee’s caution is re- 
quired of their captains. ’ ’ This, though relating to nautical 
matters, has no connection with the modem sense of burgee^ 
but it points to a form burgese^ intermediate between the 
early Anglo-Norman burgess and the modern bourgeois. 
This is a form which we should expect to exist, -ese being the 
regular English equivalent of Old Fr. --eis (later -aw), 
c.g. Chinese, Portuguese, etc. Burgee^s caution is evidently 
the equivalent of Fr. caution bourgeoise: citie securitie, or 
securitie of rich, and resident citizens” (Gotgrave). 

The second extract is from the Boston Post-Boy of June 
18, 1750: “Thursday last, as Colonel William Rickets of 
Elizabeth-Town (New Jersey), with his wfe and family, 
were going home from this city in his own boat accom- 
panied by some of his friends, they unfortunately left their 
burgee flying at their masthead, and on their coming 
abreast of His Majesty's ship Greyhound, then lying in the 
North River, a gun was fired from aboard her.” Here we 
132 



BUSKIN 


have the shipowner, Hying his private flag, fired on by a 
king's ship for not ‘‘vailing” his colours as etiquette re- 
quired. Fr. bourgeois (Pun navire: the owner of a ship” 
(Cotgrave), is well documented in French nautical lan- 
guage, and I am told that in the modern yachting world the 
burgee is run up when the owner comes on board. Evid- 
ently the flag was known at one time as the burgese^ reduced 
to burgee in the same way as the popular Chinee for Chinese. 

Buskin 

Archaic names of garments have a way of reviving. 
World War I brought back the “jerkin” a few years after 
Mr. Burberry had reintroduced the “gabardine”; so it is 
quite possible that at some future date we may resuscitate the 
“buskin.” At present we only use the word with a vague 
reminiscence of Robin Hood or the “buskined stage.” 

Buskin appears c. 1500. The Oxford Dictionary suggests 
foreign origin, and mentions as possibly connected Old Fr. 
brousequiny Dutch hrooskeUy Sp. borcegui. It. borzacckino, etc. 
I am quite willing to believe that our buskin may have been 
influenced by one or other of these words, none of which 
appears to have been much used in its native language, but 
buskin has never had an -r-, nor is there any record of transi- 
tion forms such as one would expect to find. A word may 
show the influence of a foreign equivalent without being de- 
rived from it, e.g. it is quite reasonable to assume that the 
Scottish bootikinsy as the name of an instrument of torture, 
may owe something to the Fr. brodequinsy lit. “buskins,” but 
also “bootes, filled with hoat oyle, etc. whereinto the legs 
being put are extreamely tormented” (Cotgrave) ; yet no 
one would suggest that bootikin is “derived” from brodequin. 

The earliest Oxford Dictionary record for buskin is from 
the Privy-Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York (1503), in 
which the word occurs several times, e.g. “To Rutte the 
Queues cordener (i.e. cordwainer, shoemaker) for shoys 
and buskyns.” 

^33 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

I regard huskin as a corruption of buckskin^ from the material 
employed. Buckskins are now breeches, in the 1 7th century 
they were gloves (cf. a pair of kids), in the 15th century they 
w^ere buckskin boots : “My lord paied to his cordwaner for a 
payr bucskyns xviiid” (Howard Household Accounts, 
148 1-90) . A cordwainer (cf. Fr. cordonnier, earlier cordouanier) 
originally worked in cordouan^ i.e. Cordovan, a choice Span- 
ish leather from w^hich were made boots, shoes and “buck- 
skins’® for the gentry. The Cordwainers are still one of the 
City Livery Companies. This leather w^as tanned from 
goat-skin, in which connection it may be noted that, up to 
the 1 6th century, buck meant goat as well as deer. 

The natural transition from buckskin to buskin appears also 
in the surname Buskin, which, though uncommon, is found 
in the London Directory and elsewhere. Buckskin (or Feilde- 
cerf) is well recorded as a Mid. English nickname, probably 
from some peculiarity of costume, e.g, “Richard de Gravde, 
called Bokskyn” (City Letter-Books, 14th century). Walter 
Bukskyn, bailiff to Queen Eleanor, is mentioned several 
times in the Close Rolls (temp. Edward I) ; in the Fine Rolls 
he is called Walter Buskyn, an inevitable corruption.^ 

Caulk 

The spelling caulk, earlier also calk, still the American 
form, appears to have been fixed by Dr. Johnson. A ship is 
“caulked®® by forcing oakum into the seams and then pour- 
ing in melted pitch. The Oxford Dictionary derives the 
verb from Mid. Eng. cauken, to trample, from Old Fr. cauquer, 
from Lat. calx, calc-, heel. So also Webster. This makes the 
process rather acrobatic, though that is not, phhologically, a 
very serious objection ; but we “caulk®® the ship or the seams, 
not the oakum. Moreover, we should expect the verb to 
have some relation to the substance applied, as in the almost 

^ Phonetically it is explained by “dissimilation,” the double -A- soimd 
being automatically isimplified. 

134 



CAULK 


synonymous nautical verb to pay, which has nothing to do 
with finance, but represents Old Fr. peter, from Lat. pix, pic-, 
pitch. When we use the expression ‘‘the devil to pay,’® we 
naturally think of the Arch-fiend claiming his due, but 
Jack Bunce was aware of the true meaning, when he said, 
‘‘There will be the devil to pay, and no pitch hot” (Scott, 
The Pirate, ch. 36). 

Primitive caulking consisted in plastering a wicker coracle 
with clay. The earliest “caulker” on record is Noah, who 
“pitched his ark within and without with pitch.” In the 
Vulgate (Genesis, vi. 14), the pitch is called bitumen and the 
verb is linere, to daub. Next in chronological order comes 
the mother of Moses, who “took for him an ark of bulrushes 
and daubed it with slime and with pitch” (Exodus, ii. 3), 
hiiumine ac pice in the Vulgate. Bitumen,^ or mineral pitch, 
was regularly applied to this purpose by Elizabethan sea- 
men. Raleigh “caulked” his ships with “stone-pitch” from 
the pitch lake in Trinidad and “caulking” with lime is des- 
cribed in Hakluyt (x, 202). Lime now usually means 
calcium oxide, but its original sense was anything viscous; 
cf. Ger. leim, glue, and our bird-lime. 

The oldest example of the verb to caulk is “The shippe 
for to caulke and pyche” (Oxf. Diet., c. 1500). It replaced 
the much earlier verb to lime, used, e.g., in reference to the 
ark, which was “set and limed agen the flood” (c. 1250). 
So also Gaxton, in 1483, “Lyme it with cleye and pitche 
within and without.” Our caulk is calcare in Med. Latin, 
and this is a contraction of a Late Lat. calicare, explained in 
the great German Thesaurus by verkitten, i.e. to plaster with 
lime. Most European languages use for caulk a verb related 
to Fr. calfater. This appears to come from the Portuguese, 
the earliest world navigators. Their verb is calqfeitar, 
probably a derivative of cal, lime, Lat, calx, calc-, whence 
also Fr. chaux, lime, and, with changed meaning, Eng. 
chalk. 

1 Gf. “caulked and bitumed*’ (Pericles, iii. i). 

135 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


Codlin 

The etymology of this name for a kind of apple is indic- 
ated by Bardsley, in his Dictionary of English and Welsh 
Surnames (1901)5 but his article seems to have escaped the 
notice of etymologists. It was originally cmf’-de-lion, a nick- 
name given to the fruit, either from its hardness or from its 
being regarded as sound at the core. The etymology seems 
to be proved by the parallel history of the surname Codlin, 
Codling. 

If we take this first, we find that Ccsur-de-lion was a fairly 
common surname in the 13th and 14th centuries. I find 
Ralph Quer de Lyun in the Fine Rolls (temp. Henry III), 
Robert Querdelioun in the Close Rolls for 1329, and Wil- 
liam Querdelioun living in London c. 1350 (City Letter- 
Books), By the middle of the 15th century the form 
assumed was Querdling. In 1433 John Querdling occu- 
pied a magisterial position in Norwich (Bardsley). Though 
the name has usually become Codiin, it is still found in 
Norfolk as Quadiing, Quodling. It has always been 
especially a Norfolk name. 

Turning to the apple, we find that the oldest form (15th 
century) was querdelynge or querdling. Thus, in the earliest- 
known Latin-English Dictionary, the Promptorium Par- 
vulorum, compiled in Norfolk in 1440 by a Norfolk man, 
we find qmrdlyng appul, explained by duracenum^ a Med. 
Latin word from Lat. duracintis, hard (of fruit). Thus 
Qyerdling the name and querdling the fruit are recorded within 
a few years of each other and in the same region. In the 
1 6th century the fruit is still, like the surname, quodling^ and, 
although Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, i, 5) has codlings 
Bacon spells it quadlin in 1625. 

After that codlin(g) prevails, a spelling partly due to 
association with coddle^ to cook. Palsgrave defines the fruit 
as pomme cuiie, Skinner (1671) as pomum coctile. The tradi- 
tion is carried on by the dictionary-makers down to 
136 



COZEN 


Johnson, who describes a codlin as apple generally 
coddled.” 

If we consider that the forms of the Norfolk surname and 
the Norfolk apple run paralM back to the middle of the 
15th century, we may, I think, assume as a reasonable pro- 
position that, if we had a 14th-century record for the apple, 
we should find it called a quer de lion, and that it was nick- 
named from its hard heart, or perhaps from its excellence. 

P.S, — An article which I contributed to the Modern 
Language Review on this word brought me a communica- 
tion from an American scholar. Professor Raymond Weeks, 
who found the proposed etymology “convincing.” He 
called my attention to a passage in the Old French Chro- 
nique des Dues de Normandie, describing a mysterious 
apple-tree discovered in a forest by Richard the Fearless, 
the fruit of which was afterwards known as “pommes du due 
Richard.” It does not seem impossible that the English 
name of the apple may be vaguely connected with the 
Lionheart’s ancestor and namesake. 

This origin of the word is accepted by Webster. 

Cozen 

This archaic verb is dubiously associated by the Oxford 
Dictionary with Fr. cousiner, “to act as cousin or kinsman, to 
sponge upon, beguile,” an etymology which dates from 
Minsheu. It rejects, as unsupported by sufficient evidence, 
the alternative derivation from It. ^^cozzonare: to play the 
horse-breaker or courser . . , also to play the craftie knave” 
(Florio),* from ^^cozzone: a horse-breaker, a horse-courser, 
also a craftie knave” (ibid.) . So also Webster. The cousiner 
etymology is open to serious objections. To begin with, 
cousiner is intransitive (cousiner avec quelqu’un), while 
cozen is transitive. Gotgrave has ^^cousiner: to clayme 
kindred for advantage, or particular ends; as he who, to 
save charges in travelling, goes from house to house, as 
cousin to the owner of everie one.” He does not appear to 

137 


K 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

connect it with cozen^ whereas Torriano has ^^cozzonate: 
to have perfect skill in all coosenages.” Moreover, the 
great French dictionaries which register cousiner, with an 
explanation like Cotgrave^s, are unable to quote any liter- 
ary authority for it, and Fureti^re (1727) remarks that “ce 
terme de familiarite n^est point en usage k la cour.” It is, 
in fact, a very rare “word, and in more than sixty years of 
omnivorous reading in French literature, from the 9th 
century up to the present day, I have never met with it. 

The Elizabethans were fond of punning on cozen and cousin^ 
evidently regarding them as quite separate words: 

Cousins indeed; and by their uncle cozen’d 
Of comfort, kingdom, kindred, freedom, life. 

(Richard III, iv, 4.) 

In The Merry Wives of Windsor (iv, 5) there is a lot of 
word-play on “cousins-german’^ and ^‘German cozeners.” 
Finally, the spelling appears in the earliest quotations; 
c.g., in the spelling of the First Folio, Dr. Caius says, “By gar 
I am cozoned; I ha married oon garsoon, a boy” (Merry 
Wives, V, 5). 

The Oxford Dictionary first finds cozen in 1573. It does 
not seem to occur in Cooper’s Latin-English Dictionary of 
that date, so was no doubt new in English, but in the later 
1 7th-century Latin dictionaries (Holyoak, Gouldman, Little- 
ton, etc.) cozener^ variously spelt, occurs regularly among 
the glosses to such words as impostor ^praestigiator. Cozen had 
evidently become what Fowler calls a “vogue-word” and 
it is reasonable to conjecture that it was introduced by 
English travellers who had had dealings with an Italian 
cozzone. The Italians were then, as now, the most 
accomplished riders in Europe, and every young noble who 
did the “grand tour” spent some time at Naples, “where he 
may improve his knowledge in horsemanship” (Howell, 
Instructions for Forreine Travell, 1642). Horse-copers 
have always had, rightly or wrongly, a reputation for 
crooked dealing. Dekker, who, like the other Elizabethan 

138 



GROSSPATGH 


experts on the ‘‘underworld/® constantly uses the word 
mzerij has left us the foilo^ving portrait of the contemporary 
horse-coper: “So then, a horse-courser to the merchant is 
as the cheater to the fair gamester: he is indeed a meere 
jadish Nonpolitane [a play on Neapolitan] and deals for 
none but tyred, tainted, dull and diseased horses. By 
which meanes, if his picture bee drawne to the life, you shall 
finde every horse-courser for the most part to be in quality a 
coozener, by profession a knave, by his cunning a varlet, in 
fayres a hagling chapman, in the citty a cogging dissembler, 
and in Smithfield a common forsworne villaine®’ (Lan- 
thorne and Candle light) . 

An exact parallel to this history of cozen is that of the verb 
to jockey^ i.e. to swindle, from the noun jockey which now 
means only a professional rider, but was applied earlier to a 
horse-dealer. Dr. Johnson defines a jockey as “a cheat, a 
trickish fellow.” 

Crosspatch 

A compound sometimes preserves a simple word no 
longer in use. The Biblical and Shakespearean blaiuy a 
sore, does not survive in standard English, except in 
chilblain, Roar,^ disturbance, once a common word, has 
given way to uproar. Other examples are the mail of black-- 
mail (p. 9) and the mare of nightmare (p. 70). In crosspatch 
we have a survival of the obsolete patchy dolt, booby, etc. 
The compound is first recorded in the Dictionary of the 
Canting Crew (c. 1700), which has crosspatch: a peevish 
person.” Like some other words now usually applied to 
females (harlot, hoyden, termagant, tomboy), patch and 
crosspatch were originally masculine or of common gender. 
Fateh occurs eight times in Shakespeare, always applied to a 

^ A Scottish and north English form of Jacky. For similar examples 
of the use of proper names see my Words and Names, ch, 7. 

® Qiiite unconnected 'with the *Voar” of the Hon. See p. 105. 


139 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


malcj and Scott still uses crosspatch as a masculine in The 
Heart of Midlothian. 

In Shakespeare patch is sometimes only a vague term of 
contempt, as when, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (iii, 2), 
Puck describes Bottom and his friends as “a crew of patches, 
rude mechanicals,” but elsewhere, as in the Tempest (iii, 
2), when Caliban calls Trinculo “pied ninny” and “scurvy 
patch,” the word is supposed to have the specific meaning 
of jester, from his parti-coloured clothes. 

The 1 6th century explained patchy fool, from Wolsey’s 
jester Patchy whose real name was Sexten. It is more likely 
that the jester was called Patch because he was a fool, than 
that every fool became a patch because of the jester. More- 
over, an earlier fool than Wolsey’s bore the same sobriquet 
(v.i.). The name may have been vaguely influenced by 
motley dress, but was probably, in the first place, simply a 
contemptuous application of the common noun patch, 
Spenser, in the character of a country lad, called himself 
Colin Clout. The oldest meaning of clouts already in 
Anglo-Saxon, is patch, and Spenser explains the pseudonym 
as chosen for its “baseness.” Ger. lump, rogue, identical 
with lumpen, shred, rag, is another parallel. 

From patch Spenser formed a word patch-cock or patckock, 
the solitary occurrence of which has greatly busied the 
commentators. He applies it to those English dwellers in 
Ireland who, having “gone native,” became “as very 
patchcocks [var. patchockes] as the wild Irishe.” It is 
usually tak^n to mean ragamuffin, tatterdemalion. This is 
probably the source of the much-discussed Shakespearean 
pajock, occurring in those lines which, as Horatio not 
unreasonably protested, Hamlet “might have rhymed”; 

For thou dost know, O Damon dear. 

This realm dismantled was 

Of Jove himself: and now reigns here 

A very, very pajock. 


140 


(Hamlet, iii, 2.) 



GROSSPATCH 


Pajock is apparently here equivalent to the ^*king of shreds 
and patches/’ which is Hamlet’s further description (iil^ 4) 
of his uncle. 

I venture to insert here an etymological note on pakh^ for 
which the Oxford Dictionary gives no indication^ while 
other dictionaries print absurdities. It is simply a less 
dignified variant o^piece^ with which it can be used indiffer- 
ently in practically every sense, while every existing mean- 
ing of patch can be rendered in modern French by pike. 
The use of patch for a person is paralleled in the history of 
piece^ applied both to men and women as early as the 13th 
century. The rustic matron still describes a pert damsel as 
a “saucy, forward piece.” 

The first record of patch is in Wyciif: “No man seweth a 
pacche [Tyndale, pece] of rude clothe to an old clothe” 
(Mark ii. 21). One could quote endless evidence to show 
the exact correspondence in sense of the two words, which 
in the medieval and later Latin dictionaries are used 
synonymously and indifferently. Even the figurative use 
of to “patch up” (a quarrel) is paralleled by a 17th-century 
quotation in the Oxford Dictionary: “All being now piePt 
up between them.” 

The difference in form can be explained. Our spelling 
of piece is artificial, the -i- of the French word completely 
disappearing from pronunciation. The Mid. English 
spelling was pece. Fr. piece had a dialect variant pieche^ 
which simiiarly became peche in Mid. English: “A lute clut 
mei iodlichen swuthe a muchel ihol peche” ^ (Ancren 
Riwle, p. 256, Camden ed.), and, some time before the days 
of Woisey’s fool, Henry VII had a jester of the same name 
with an earlier spelling. In the Privy Purse Expenses for 
1492 occurs the item “To Peche the foie in rewarde, 6s. 8d.” 
But the ioTui pacche ox patch was the normal result of the Old 
French word, just as Fr. meche became Eng. match^ and 
crkhe^ manger, gave cratchy still common in dialect and used 
^ A little clout may quickly spoil a large piece. 

141 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 
by Wyclif in the Gospel narrative of the birth of Christ: 

"‘Sche cMldidc her firste born sone and wlappidc him in clothis and 
puttide him in a cracche” (Luke, ii. 7). 

Cuff 

In the sense of a clout of the head, this word is recorded 
from the early i6th century. The Oxford Dictionary 
mentions as possibly related the German rogues’ slang 
kuffen^^ to thrash, and the Swedish kuffa^ to thrust, push. 
But to cuffh neither to thrash nor to push. It has only the 
very limited sense of a blow, usually with the open hand, in 
the region of the head. If the hand is clenched, we have 
the expressive fisticuff. When Petruchio says to Klatherine, 
‘T swear Fll cuff you, if you strike again” (Taming of the 
Shrew, ii, i), we can hardly imagine that he was contem- 
plating a knuckle encounter with the lady. Similarly, 
when Queen Elizabeth, according to Camden, gave Essex a 
“cuffe on the ear,” we may be sure that the flat of the hand 
was employed, for no infuriated woman, not even the great 
Elizabeth, ever succeeded in clenching her fist. 

But the original sense may have been to punch, pommel. 
Palsgrave has, ‘T cuffe one, I pomell hym about the heed: 
je torche.^^ The figurative use of Fr. torcher, lit. to wipe, 
suggests that cuff is one of the numerous semi-euphemistic 
terms for a blow, such as our elegant ‘‘wipe across the 
chops.” We may compare Fr. frotter^ to rub, but also 
“to cudgel!, thwack, baste, or knock soundly” (Cotgrave), 
and Katherine’s picturesque allusion to “combing the 
noddle” of a husband with a three-legged stool (Taming of 
the Shrew, i, i). 

There is a French verb which has exactly the sense re- 
quired, viz. coiffer, to provide with head-gear, to dress the 
hair. This is often used in Old French of buffeting. Gode- 
ffoy quotes from an Old French manuscript, “Je vos pin- 

^ This word, first recorded as the noun kuffe, a blow, in Simplicissimus 
(1669), may be from Flemish 

142 



DAPPLE-GREY 


gnerai^ je vos donrei une coife/’ i.e. will comb your hair^ 
I will give you a cuff.” Gf. the synonymous clout^ used in 
Hamlet of a kerchief or head-band (see quotation^ p. 170). 
The French word passed into Flemishs in which kqffe is 
recorded both for head-dress and bufFet- 

The change of vowel in English is difficult to explain. 
The word may have been iliogically assimilated to the older 
cuff^ part of the sleeve, or it may — ^which is likelier — have 
been affected by the synonymous, and also older, buff, now 
replaced by buffet, but surviving in the compound rebuff. 
The two words would naturally be coupled, as huffe and 
coiffe were in Old French, e.g. in the following i4th-centuiy 
passage : “Les assistans dirent que le dit Jehan gaignoit bien 
k avoir deux buffes ou coiffes,” i.e. "‘The bystanders stated 
that the said John was all the better for a couple of "buffs* or 
‘cuffs.* ** 

Dapple-grey 

Most dictionaries which include “etymologies” explain 
dapple as derived from Old Norse depill, a spot, dot, lit. a 
little pool. This theory was originated by Wedgwood, who 
began the publication of his Etymological Dictionary in 
1857. It is accepted by Skeat, with the remark, “As Mr, 
Wedgwood well observes, the resemblance of dapple-grey to 
Iccl. apalgrar, Fr. gris pommeli, is accidental.” From Skeat 
this has been copied by uncritical lexicographers and is even 
put forward dubiously by the Oxford Dictionary. 

The erudition and power of weighing evidence which are 
supposed to belong to the etymologist are greatly helped 
by a little common-sense. When we note that the equival- 
ent of dapple-grey in most of the European languages is, or 
was at some time, a compound meaning “apple-grey,” ^ it is 
difficult to resist the conviction that this was the original 
form, and that it became dapple-grey just as affodil (Fr. 
asphodUe) has become daffodil. 

^ Recorded, but at a later date than dapplegr^. 

143 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

The first record of dapple-grey is in Sir Thopas: 

His steede was al dappull-gray, 

It gooth an ambii in the way. 

(Chaucer, B. 2074.) 

In the Prologue we are told that — 

This revc sat upon a ful good stot (nag), 

That was al pomely grey and hightc Scot. 

(A. 615.) 

It was at Boughton-under-Bican that the pilgrims were 
overtaken by the Canon’s Yeoman, whose hackney ‘ 'was al 
pomely grys” (G. 359). This French term (now gris 
pommele) is more frequent than the English in the Middle 
Ages. PommeUy dappled, is well recorded in Old French, 
and is applied to other animals besides horses. 

The resemblance between the markings of the dapple- 
grey horse and those of the "apple” has, as stated above, been 
noticed in most languages, e.g. Dan. abildgraa, Ger. 
^^apfelgrau: appie-grey, dapple-gray” (Ludwig), Dutch 
^^appelgraauw: vulgo pomaceus, pomulatus” (Kilian, 1620), 
It. ^pomellato: spotted, bespeckled, pide, dappel graie” 
(Florio), and Bmss. jablochnyj (from jabloko, apple). Some 
etymologists explain this widespread description from the 
fact that the markings suggest little round apples. The 
colour which I call dapple-grey suggests to me, and did long 
before I became a humble explorer in etymology, the 
splashes of deeper colour on the skin of a ripe pippin. The 
"apple” etymology is accepted by Webster. 

The dapple and dappled beloved of poets, e.g. Milton’s 
"dappled dawn” and "dappled shade,” are evolved from 
the earlier dapple-grey y just as the verb to beetle^ to overhang, 
is evolved from beetle-browed. Similarly Fr. pommele is still 
used of that "dapple-grey” appearance in the sky which is 
now associated by us with the mackerel; cf. the French 
proverb, "Giel pommeid et femme fardee ne sont pas de 
longue durde.” 

144 



DEMURE 


Demure 

Some years ago I gave the Nottingham Three Arts Club 
a lecture dealing with the curious changes that have come 
about in the meanings of so many of our familiar adjec- 
tives.^ A good example is nice^ which the Oxford Diction- 
ary treats under fifteen meanings or groups of meanings, 
the interpretation of many early examples depending very 
much on the context. Unlike nice^ which has gradually 
gone up in the world, the majority of adjectives descend, 
via their ironic use, from the complimentary to the depreci- 
atory. Sanctimonious is now the natural epithet for a 
humbug, but Prospero cautions Ferdinand to restrain his 
amorous ardour till — 

Ail sanctimonious ceremonies may 
With full and holy rite be minister’d. 

(Tempest, iv, i.) 

Distrust of conspicuous virtue has given a new sense to 
parsimonious, formerly the natural description of a good 
housewife, and contempt for wisdom adequately expressed 
has ruined the once complimentary sententious. The 
sententious man is now often regarded as pompous, another 
victim of the same instinct. Egregious, i.e. of outstanding 
excellence, has gone the same way, and notorious, famous, 
tends to do the same. Obsequious once meant no more than 
dutifully obedient, and officious is defined by Phillips as 
“ready to do good offices, serviceable, friendly, very courte- 
ous and obliging.’’ An “essay on man” is contained in the 
sense-development of the word suggestive, which, according 
to a small American dictionary I possess, means “designed 
or tending to arouse improper thoughts; offensive to mod- 
esty and delicacy.” 

Equally strong is our national distrust of knowledge, 
exemplified by the degeneration in sense of artful, crafty, 
cunning, knowing and sly. Wyclif uses the last word to render 

^ Printed as Chapter I of my Adjectives — and other Words (Murray, 

1930)- 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

the prudens of the Vulgate; “Therfor beyesligh as serpentis 
and sympie as dowves” (Matthew x. i6). Silly, which once 
corresponded to the Lat. beatus, as its German cognate 
selig still does, keeps some of its original sense in ''Silly 
(happy) Suffolk,” 

Demure has suffered from the tendency illustrated above. 
In 1612 Holyoak equates it with sober, and renders it by 
mtecundus, modestus. For Milton it was still a compliment- 
ary epithet: 

Come, pensive nun, devout and pure. 

Sober, stedfast and demure- 

(Penseroso, 1 . 31.) 

It is found already in Mid. English with the meaning 
*'calm, still,” used of the sea. Towards the end of the 
17th century it had begun to acquire a suggestion of the 
sly or sanctimonious. 

Both the Oxford Dictionary and Webster derive it from 
Mid. Eng. mure, ripe (Fr. mur) with the comment that the 
de- is “obscure,” which it certainly is. Demure has never 
had anything to do with maturity and it would be hard to 
quote another example of a meaningless prefix being 
attached to an adjective. Moreover, demure is, so far as 
records go, an older word than mure. When we consider 
that its essential meaning is “staid,” for earlier “stayed,” 
and its equivalents in other languages, e.g. Lat. sedatus, Fr. 
rassis, by which it is rendered by Palsgrave, and Ger. 
gesetzt, it seems obvious that it is a verbal adjective formed 
from Norman Fr. demurer {demeurer), to stay. This verb 
also gave our demur, originally to tarry, abide, whence the 
nautical demurrage, delay in harbour of a ship. 

A parallel to this formation is stale, which, in all its 
senses, represents Old Fr. estate, from estaler {italer), to 
spread, display, on a “stall.” C£ also etanche, formerly 
estanche (whence Eng. staunch), from estancher {Stancher), to 
check a flow. Apart from these examples we have several 
words in which a French past participle in -i appears to 
146 



DESCRY 


have lost its final syllable in English. Familiar examples 
are the legal treasure trove (Old Fr. trovd), and malice prepense^ 
which we partly translate as ‘‘malice aforethought.” 
Others are costive^ Old Fr. costive^ Lat. constipatus, the noun 
defle^ Fr. defili, and the adjective signal, Fr. signale. It is 
even possible that the verbal adjective demeure existed in 
Old French, for Palsgrave has the adverb ^^demurement: 
sadly, wysly,*’ in connection with which it may be noted 
that sad originally meant “ staid,” e.g. young John Paston 
writes of his betrothed, “I wys she is no thyng so sadde as I 
wold she wer.” 

Descry 

Modern writers on the occult sometimes call a crystal- 
gazer a scryer, a name disinterred by psychical researchers 
from the works of the 16th-century charlatans, where it had 
slept undisturbed for two centuries. One of the craft, 
Edward Kelly, “skryer” to the amazing Dr. Dee, has ob- 
tained a niche in the Dictionary of National Biography 
and the honour of a mention by Butler (Hudibras, II, iii, 
235). There is no difficulty about the origin of the word. 
It is from descry. Old Fr. descrier, equivalent to escrier (now 
only in the reflexive s’^ eerier), English often drops the initial 
syllable of such words, e.g. squire for esquire, stain for distain, 
although the longer forms often persist as well. 

That ascry, escry, descry are old words in our language is 
shown by the retention of the -j- sound, which, though some- 
times preserved in spelling, became silent before another 
consonant in 1 3th-century French. Thus Old Fr. descrier has 
a later form decrier, which we have adopted as decry. Misled 
by the de-, we have gradually given to decry the sense of 
crying down, but its proper French meaning was to shout 
out, proclaim, and it was especially used in proclaiming the 
withdrawal of coin from circulation. It is easy to see how a 
word used in this connection would acquire the sense of dis- 
paraging, depreciating. This is shown by Gotgrave, who 

147 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


has, ^^Onle descrie comm la vieille monmye: he hath a verie bad 
report among the people; his credit is wholly crack*t, fame 
blemished, reputation lost.” 

Of the older forms, which, along with other meanings, 
retained always the original idea of crying out, proclaiming, 
we have kept only descry giving to it the meaning of 
discerning, detecting, ‘^spotting.” 

To see how this arises naturally from the primitive, w^e 
have only to turn to the history of explore, Lat. explorare 
meant to spy out, reconnoitre; the explorator was not what 
we understand by an explorer, but an ‘‘espie or privie 
searcher” (Cooper). In the Vulgate we read, “Misit igitur 
Josue filius Nun de Setim duos viros exploratores in 
abscondito” (Joshua i, 2). 

Explorare is a compound of plorare^ to weep. We now 
think of weeping as a rather subdued expression of grief, 
but the Angio-Sax. wepan is derived from voop^ a sound 
imitative of loud outcry. The same is true of ‘"crying,” 
which modern restraint can effect noiselessly. The primi- 
tive sense of Lat. plorare was to bawl lustily,^ and explorare 
meant “to bew^ayle with exclamation” (Cooper). The 
explorator announced by a shout the presence of the game or 
of the enemy. Festus, a 2nd-century Roman word-hunter, 
tells us, “Speculator ab exploratore hoc differt, quod specu- 
lator hostiiia silentio perspicit, explorator pacata clamore 
cognoscit.” The speculator^ in fact, conducted himself like a 
pointer, the explorator like a fox-terrier. 

The interesting semantic point is that the people who 
coined the Old Fr. descrier, escrier^ to cry out, probably 
unacquainted with the Lat. explorare and certainly ignorant 

^ The preSx des~ or dis- was preferred in Mid. English, e.g. we have 
kept dishevelled (Old Fr. descheveli) and rejected the escheveli (now 
icheveli) which French has preserved. 

® This was the original meaning of its French descendant pleurer, 
while pleur, now a poetic equivalent for larme, a tear, preserved the 
sense of wailing, lamentation, up to the 17th century. **Jetcr des 
larmes sans pleur” is Old French for to shed tears without boo-hooing. 



FELON 


of its etymologers tinconsciously reproduced after a thousand 
years the same mental process, by creating a verb, which, 
from the primitive sense of announcing by a shout, evolved 
that of detecting visually. 

Shakespeare uses descry in the military sense more than 
once. Cf. also Milton: 

Others from the dawning hills 
Looked out, and scouts each coast light-armed scour, 

Each quarter, to descry the distant foe, 

Where lodged, or whither fled, or if for flght. 

In motion or in halt. 

(Paradise Lost, vi, 529.) 

In Anglo-French the form escrier is more usual. In 1327, 
when the young king Edward III was encamped near 
Durham, Sir James Douglas nearly succeeded in kidnap- 
ping him, but the watchmen of the host spotted him: “Mes 
le dit James Douglas fut escrye des gueites en Post et se mist 
a ie fuite” (French Chronicle of Londou, c. 1350). 

Felon 

This word, meaning a sore or swelling in the finger, and 
especially what is called a ‘‘whitlow,” is in general use both 
in English dialect and in the United States. It occurs 
several times in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex novels, e.g. 
•‘IVe been visiting to Bath, because I had a felon on my 
thumb” (Far from the Madding Crowd, ch. 33). Both 
the Shorter Oxford Dictionary and Webster indicate pos- 
sible identity with the more familiar felon^ a criminal, 
wretch, earlier also an adjective, “cruel,” which is of un- 
known origin, but they do not go into details. That this 
identity is pretty certain seems clear from a comparison with 
the equivalent words used in other languages. Many years 
ago I dealt with this word in a paper read to' the Philologicai 
Society, of which the following is a summary. It is re- 
corded in English in 1340, and still earlier, in “leech-Latin,” 
in 1 1 16. It is found in Old French with the meaning 
“abscfe, tumeisr,” and is still current in the French spoken 

149 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

in Guernsey and Canada. Early examples in the Oxford 
Dictionary are *'wykked felone” (c. 1450) and ‘Teloes or 
noughtie sores*’ (^57^)* 

The parallels are quite conclusive, e.g. Lat. ^*furuncuius: 
a little theefe, a sore in the bodie called a feilon or cattes 
heare” (Cooper), whence 'Fv.furoncle^ earlier also ^^furuncuU: 
a felon or whitlow” (Cotgrave), and * Fronde: the hot 
and hard bumpe, or swelling, tearmed a feilon” (ibid.). 
Another Latin word, tagax, thievish, is used by Lucilius for 
“a felon on a mans finger” (Cooper). In Spanish the wwd 
for a stepfather, padrastro, also means a whitlow, and in 
Yorkshire dialect such a swelling is called a ‘ 'stepmother’s 
blessing.” An Old French name for it was envie, with 
which compare the synonymous Dutch nijd-nagel, envy nail. 
I cannot explain the curious name "cat’s hair,” often used 
by the earlier dictionaries. Perhaps it is merely a transla- 
tion of Fr. poil de chat, by which Palsgrave explains "whit- 
low,” but this seems equally inexplicable. 

Foil 

A maxim of the great German philologist, Jakob Grimm, 
was "von den wortern zu den sachen,” i.e. "from the 
words to the things.” No etymology is of any value which 
does not agree with the oldest ascertained meaning of the 
word in question. Ignorance of what a primitive foil 
looked like is responsible for the really idiotic suggestion 
that the ftncingfoil owes its name to ^r.feutlle, leaf, which 
is presumed to have been applied to the button on the point, 
a somewhat similar origin being claimed for Fr. fleuret, 
earlier floret, a foil. 

The earliest foils were not buttoned, for the simple reason 
that the point was not used in early fencing. It is obvious 
that only a lunatic would have delivered thrusts at polished 
breastplates. It was not until gunpowder brought about 
the disuse of heavy armour that any swordsman thought of 
using the point. The earliest swordplay was hacking with 
150 



GALLIPOT 


sword and buckler, later with sword and dagger. Not 
until the beginning of the i8th century was the blade 
discarded for the point in fencing. 

The original foil was a rough, blunt sword-blade, with 
no resemblance to the implement described by the Oxford 
Dictionary as ‘'a flexible steel four-faced tapering weapon, 
buttoned at the point,*’ a picture of which will be found in 
Webster. The earliest English record of the word is from 
Thomas Nashe’s picaresque novel, The Unfortunate 
Traveller, or the Life of Jack Wilton (1594), in which a 
down-at-heel gallant “had a piece of a rusty sworde by his 
side; it was but a foyle neither.” We find Old Vr. floret 
similarly used, and it seems to have been a general term for 
an unpolished sword-blade. Cotgrave has floret: a foile; a 
sword with the edge rebated,” and also ^fueille d"un [sic\ 
espee: the blade of a sword.” Thdit feuille should be used in 
this way is quite natural; cf. the correspondence of Eng. 
blade with Ger. blatt, leaf, and schulterblaity shoulder-blade; 
also Lat. lamina^ metal plate, whence Fr. lame^ both meaning 
sword-blade. Fr. feuille is still used for the blade of a saw. 
Thus foil does come, as in “tinfoil,” “counterfoil,” from 
Fr. feuille^ leaf, but it has no connection with what did 
not adorn a non-existent point! 

Kilian’s Dutch Dictionary, among the list of foreign 
words, records folie, borrowed from Old French, with the 
three meanings of leaf, metal plate, broad-sword, which 
seems pretty conclusive. 

Gallipot 

“The wavering apprentice has been confirmed in his 
desire to quit the gallipots.” In these words the Blackwood 
reviewer delicately alludes to the fact that Keats was an 
apothecary’s apprentice. Grose, in his Dictionary of the 
Vulgar Tongue (1785), gives gallipot: a nickname &»r an 
apothecary.” The earliest gallipots were used to contain 
ointments and other medicaments. Johnson’s definition, 

S5S 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

‘‘a pot painted and glazed, commonly used for medicines/^ 
is accompanied by a stupefying derivation from Sp. gala^ 
finery, because a gallipot is a “fine, painted pot.’’ 

The accepted 17th-century etymology was from the 
synonymous Dutch gldpoL This first appears in Minsheu, 
who lifted it verbatim from the Dutch lexicographer Kilian. 
Ghiy earlier also ghye^ was supposed to mean potter’s clay. 
It also occurs in the compounds ^^gley e-backer: plastes, 
figuius” (Kilian) and gleyers-werck: vasa scintillantia, e 
scintillante sive splendente terra; vas fictile Balearicum, 
Maioricanum” (ibid.). The last two words really let the 
cat out of the bag. 

Dutch glei^ potter’s earth, is a ghost-word, or rather an 
illegitimate inference from gleipot^ the latter being of much 
more recent date than our gallipot^ which is found in the 
1 5th century. Glei was perhaps felt to be a variant of the 
true Dutch word klei, cognate with our clay. It is really a 
common i yth-century contraction of galei, earlier galeye, a 
galley, just as the South African vlei or viey^ a depression in 
the land, is contracted from Dutch valei, a valley, from Fr. 
vallSe. 

“Galley” was once almost a general name for vessels from 
the Mediterranean. Galleys that came up the Thames 
were moored at Galley Quay, near the Tower: “In this lane 
(Minchin Lane) of old dwelt divers strangers born of Genoa 
and those parts; they were commonly called ‘galley-men,’ 
as men that came up in the ‘galleys’ brought up wines and 
other merchandises, which they landed in Thames street, 
at a place called ‘Galley key’; they had a certain coin of 
silver amongst themselves, which were halj^ence of Genoa, 
and were called ‘galley halfpence’; these halfpence were 
forbidden in the 13th of Henry IV” (Stow, Survey of 
London). There is also record of “galley dishes” and 
“galley tiles,” the latter still in Johnson, 

This fine porcelain was brought by “galleys” firom the 
Mediterranean, and it is probable that most of it was 

152 



HAPHAZARD 


majolica^ from the Balearic Isles. The finest porcelain is 
called in Dutch kraakporselein^ because brought in ^'car- 
racks.’’ Galleys and carracks are often coupled in early 
nautical documents, and probably they were very much the 
same thing for the landsman. 

Haphazard 

The Oxford Dictionary explains this compound, recorded 
from Tudor times, as a collocation of the archaic hap^ 
chance, luck (whence happen^ happy ®), and the synonymous 
hazard^ thus lit. "hazard of chance.” This is an etymology 
readily accepted without examination, but, when tested, it 
becomes improbable or impossible. Why should two 
familiar and synonymous words be put together in this 
unusual way ? We have such compounds as pea-jacket^ in 
which an explanatory word has been added to the obsolete 
pee^ a jacket, or shrew-mouse^ coined when the zoological 
sense of the simple shrew was somewhat obscured by its 
figurative application. But these formations belong to 
quite a different category. I know of no parallel to the 
meaningless duplication of an abstract term. 

The earliest record for haphazard is its use as the name of a 
character in an old play, Appius and Virginia (1575). It 
seems to belong to that interesting class of nicknames, com- 
pounded of a verb and its object, to which we owe about two 
hundred existing surnames,® among them the most famous 
of English names, Shakespeare, Such names can be 
counted by thousands in the Middle Ages, and, if Haphazard 
was thus used in a 16th-century play, no doubt it was 
already some centuries old. 

^ Majolica is derived from Majorca, now Mallorca in Spanish. 

® The older sense of luck, chance, survives in haply, happily, happy 
thought, etc. Pepys says, “Prince Rupert, I hear, is to go this day to com- 
mand this fleet going to Guinea against the Dutch. I doubt few will b© 
pleased with his going, being accounted an unhappy man” (Aug. 
1664). 

® See my Surnames, ch, X2« 


L 


153 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

There is an obsolete verb hap^ to grab, from Fr. ^‘^happer: to 
hap, or catch; to snatch or graspe at” (Gotgrave). It is 
possible that it survives in the name Hapgood^ which would 
then be a little stronger than Gathergood^^ while both contrast 
with Scattergood. 

Fr. happer belongs to the group of gripper^ pincer, etc., from 
which are formed many colloquial compounds descriptive 
of character, such as ^'happe4opin: a catch-bit, sycophant, 
smell-feast” (Cotgrave); ^^grtppeminaud: agriping, catching, 
greedie, covetous, cruel! fellow” (ibid.); ^pime-^maille: a 
pinch-penie, scrapegood, niggard, miser, penie-father” 
(ibid.). With these we may compare such 13th-century 
English nicknames as Gachemaille (Old Fr. maille was a 
small coin), Cachepeny, Gripchese, Pinchepeny. I have no 
doubt that hap-hazard originally meant “grab-chance.” 
To “hap the hazard” would be exactly equivalent to Lat. 
occasionem caper e and Fr. attraper la chance. 

The phrase “at haphazard” came into existence in the 
same way as its German equivalent “auf’s geratewol,” lit. 
at chance-v;ell, from the verb geraten^ to chance, succeed. 
This has given the German surname Geratwol, Grothwohl, 
etc. Its formation from verb and adverb is paralleled in 
English by such names as Golightly, Rideout, Saywell, 
Walklate. 

High-flown 

It is inevitable that high-flown should be associated with 
“high-flying.” The Oxford Dictionary even defines it as 
“soaring high, elevated, elated,” and derives it from flowny 
the past participle of fly. This view, which classes high- 
flown with such illogical adjectives as “outspoken” (for 
“outspeaking”), is, in my opinion, quite erroneous. The 
original meaning of highflown was not elevated, hyperboli- 
cal, but turgid, bombastic, or what is called by the 
mysterious American name “high-falutin*.” 

^ In these names good means goods, wealth. 


154 



HIGH-FLOWN 


The two ideas are akin, but not identical. When, during 
the progress of a ‘‘labour’’ dispute, a lady Member of Parlia- 
ment calls the Cabinet ministers a set of “brass-faced baby- 
killers,” and a gentleman Member of Parliament describes 
the Government as “the most brutal and murderous in the 
whole of history,” wc recognize hyperbole or exaggeration, 
i.e. heaping up, not quite the same thing as turgidity, 
though sometimes borrowing its aid, as in the following 
rhapsody, in which an American publisher expresses his 
conviction that a contemporary novelist really is the goods : 
“Romancer, soldier, poet, gallant sportsman, great artist 
and great man, a Bonn Byrne is born to bless this drab 
world of ours with his bold, colourful, high-hearted stories 
once in a hundred years. A nobler Byron, a more musical 
Dumas, a more vital Meredith, a swifter moving Scott — 
here he is, Bonn Byrne!” ^ 

The purely high-flown style is better represented by the 
following extract from a Yorkshire paper (1919): “They 
recognized it wasn’t frothy turgid rhetoric which had been 
served up to them for years, it was the dynamite of facts, 
booming like a minute gim, awakening the dormant mental 
splendours of those imaginative industrious sons of toil, 
revealing to them the sophistical cogwheels of political 
vote-catching chicanery.” 

The elevated or “high-flying” style is called in French 
“le style 61 ev 6 ,” the highflown style is “le style ampoul6” — 
discours ampoule: a high-flown discourse” (Mi^ge, 1688). 
This is derived from Lat. ^^ampulla: a pot with a hollow 
belly; anything blown or puft up; ampullae^ pL : big words, 
strong lines, high-flown stuff” (Littleton). The Latin 

^ In case the reader should be inclined to adopt towards this specimen 
of “blurb” the incredulous attitude of the Irishman on first seeing a 
giraffe, I may say that it is taken verbatim from an advertisement in the 
American Mercury (May, 1926). Another American publisher, whose 
advertisement I have noticed, expresses himsdf more simply: “Wake up, 
you would-be intellectuals, and strain your throats in demand for the 
genius of all the ages.” 

155 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

adjectives for high-flown were tumidus and turgidus^ both 
meaning swollen: 

Shall gentle Coleridge pass unnoticed here, 

To turgid ode and tumid stanza dear? 

(Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.) 

The corresponding German words are aufgeblasen, blown 
up, and schwiilstig^ from schwellen, to swell: ^^eine schwiilstige 
rede oder sekreihart: a high strain; a bombast/ a tumid, high, 
high-flown, high-strained, bombastick, swelling, swoln or 
swollen, speech or stile’’ (Ludwig). The evidence of the 
early dictionaries is conclusive as to high-flown meaning 
swollen, not lofty, though the natural association with 
“flying” begihs to appear in the i8th century, e.g. Johnson 
gives for it the two meanings, “elevated” and “turgid,” 
while he defines “high-flying” as “extravagant in claims or 
opinions,” which is quite a different thing. 

The conclusion of the whole matter is that the flown of 
high-flown is from flow^ used in Mid. English of the swelling of 
a river, a sense surviving into the 17th century. It is 
especially common in the past participle: “Firste we come 
to Torrens Cedron, which in somcr tyme is drye, and in 
wynter, and specyally in Lent, it is mervaylously flowen 
with rage of water” (Pilgrimage of Sir Richard Guylforde, 
1506). Milton’s “Sons of Belial, flown with insolence and 
wine” (Paradise Lost, i, 501) were not “elevated,” except in 
the modern slang sense of that word; they were what in 
America is called “full” or “tanked”; c£ “The young 
gentleman is come in, Madam, very high flowne, but not so 
drunke as to forget your promise” (Brome, A Mad Couple 
Well Matched, iii, 2; c. 1640). 

Howlet 

The naming of birds from their characteristic cry is a 
recognized phenomenon. Not infrequently such names arc 
punningly associated with familiar personal names. Thus 
^ Originally cotton stuffing. 


156 



HOWLET 


the curlew, Fr. courlis^ is sometimes called Louis in France. 
The fenman calls the heron ‘‘old Francis/^ a playful ela- 
boration of the earlier Frank, “apparently a rendering of the 
sound made by the bird” (Oxford Dictionary). A more 
familiar example is Skelton’s 16th-century “Philip Sparrow,” 
while still earlier, in Piers Plowman, the bird is called by the 
contracted form Phip (cf. the surname Phipps), both 
names being evidently suggested by the bird’s chirp. I 
think it can be shown that kowlet belongs to the same 
category. 

As an eaglet is a little eagle, it seems often to be thought 
that the (h) owlet is a little {k)owl, which it is not, for the word 
was used in Mid. English of the adult bird, the true dim., 
owlet, not being recorded tiU a century later. is bor- 

rowed from Fr. ^^huloiie: madge-howlet” (Cotgrave). This 
hulotte is the feminine of Hxilot, older Huclot, a double dim., 
-el-ot, of the common Old French name Hue, our Hugh. 
The bird was also called huette and huotte, feminines of the 
dims. Huet and Huot. Hugh was a favourite medieval 
name, with earlier English variants Hew and How, the 
same man being often called indifferently by either name. 

The derivation usually given, from Old High Ger. ule 
(now eule), owl, influenced by Fr. htier, to hoot, will obvi- 
ously not account for the forms huette and huotte, mentioned 
above, as they have no trace of But there can be little 
doubt that the choice of the personal name for the bird was 
due to a punning association with the verb huer. 

The dims, of the name Hugh (Hew, How) have given a 
large number of surnames in English, e.g. Hewett, Hewlett, 
Hullett, Howitt, Hewlett, Hutchin and Houchin, and the 
fact that several of these are used in dialect for the screech- 
owl seems to confirm the Hugh origin of howlet Both 
“hewlett” and “hullett,” or “jenny hullett,” are in various 
parts of England used for howlet, and a i yth-century trans- 
lation of Boileau’s Lutrin renders hibou, the usual French 
word for owl, by “hot-houchin.” Here, as in “madge- 

157 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

howlet” and *‘jenny-hullett,” a new personal name is 
prefixed, when the origin of the older name is no longer 
realized. So also we have hobgoblin as an elaboration of 
goblin, which was also originally a personal name. Hob is 
one of the five pet forms of Robert, the others being Bob, 
Rob, Dob and Nob. Robert Bruce is addressed as “King 
Hob^’ in an English satirical song directed against him 
early in the 14th century. 

Jackanapes 

In my Romance of Words (p. 41) I suggested that the 
origin of this odd-looking compound may be “Jack of 
Naples.*’ I do not know that any fresh light has been 
thrown on the problem in recent years, but it may be of 
interest to summarize what is known about the word. It is 
first recorded in political lampoons assailing the unpopular 
William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, who was murdered at 
sea in 1450 (2 Henry VI, iv, i). His badge was a clog and 
chain such as were attached to a tame monkey. 

In Political Poems and Songs, vol. 2, edited by Wright 
for the Rolls Series (1861), he is the subject of three metrical 
attacks. The first, a song on the popular discontent at the 
disasters in France, refers to all the leading men of the day by 
their heraldic badges, to which the writer of the manxiscript 
has appended their names. The allusions are clear to any- 
one who is acquainted with this episode of English history: 

The Rote (Bedforde) is ded, the Swanne (Gloucctter) is goonc. 
The firy Grcssctt (Exccttcr) hath lost his lyght; 

Therfore Inglond may make gret monc, 

Were not the helpe of Godde Almyght. 

The Gastelle (Roone) is. wonne where care begowne. 

The Portccolys (Somerset) is leyde adowne; 

Iclosid we have cure Wclcvcttc Hattc (Cardinall), 

That kevcryd us from mony stormys browne. 

The White lion (Northfolke) is leyde to slepe. 

Thorough the envy of the Ape Glogge (Southfolk); 

And he is bounden that cure dorc shuld kepe. 

That is Talbott oure goode dogge. 

158 



JACKANAPES 

The second deals with Suffolk’s arrest: 

Jack Napys, with his cloggc. 

Hath tied Talbot oure gentiile dogge, 

Wherfore Bcamownt,^ that gentiile rache,® 

Hath brought Jack Napis in an eviUe cache. 

The third is on the death of Suffolk : 

In the monethc of May, when gresse groweth grene, 

Flagrant in her floures, with swete savour, 

Jac Napes wolde one the see a maryner to ben. 

With his clogc and his cheyn, to seke more tresour. 

Suychc a payn prikkedc hym, he asked a confessour. 

Nicolas ® said, “I am redi thi confessour to be.” 

He was holdcn so that he nc passede that hour. 

For Jac Napes soulc Placebo ^ and Dirigc.® 

The last line recurs, with slight variations, at the end of 
each of the nine stanzas. 

From this it is clear (i) that Jack Napes was the nickname 
of William de la Pole, (2) that, for the name to have had 
any significance, it must already have been familiar English 
for a captive monkey, though it is not actually recorded in 
this more general sense till seventy years later. This is one 
more example of the fact that our nicknames and surnames 
often carry back the history of the words from which they 
are formed far beyond dictionary records® drawn from 
literary sources. From the early 16th century onward 
there is abundant documentary evidence fox jackanapes ^ a 

^ Lord Beaumont, High Constable of England. 

® Sleuth-hound. 

® The ship that stopped Suffolk in the Channel. 

^ The first word in the antiphon (Psalm cxvi. 9) at Vespers in the Office 
for the Dead. 

* The first word in the antiphon (Psalm v. 8) at Matins in the Office for 
the Dead. Hence dirge, 

® This appHcs cspcdaily to compounds used in outspoken desciiptions, 
t.,%, fathead^ first recorded by the Oxford Dictionary for 1842, was actu- 
ally a surname in laao, for John ffathevit is in the Gockersand Cartulary 
for that year. Similarly a niggard, first recorded in the i6th 
century, was a common 13th-century nickname, surviving in the sur- 
name Fennefather. 


159 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

monkey. If we had gramophone records of I4th-centiiry 
conversations we should probably find that it was equally 
familiar to that age. 

Th.z.t jackanapes has long been felt as containing the word 
is obvious. For the n- of napes ^ the Oxford Dictionary 
compares Ned, Noll, etc., and for the final -s such surnames 
as Jacks, Hobbs, etc. This is not very convincing. If ape 
was the original element of the word and recognized as such, 
it is hardly likely that it could have been arbitrarily altered 
in this way. Proper names regularly have fantastic varia- 
tions played on them, common nouns hardly ever. There 
is no record of what would have been the normal form, viz. 
“Jack ape” (cf. jackass), and, although jackanape is also 
found, it does not occur before Shakespeare, who introduces 
it into the broken English of Dr. Caius: “By gar, me vill kill 
de priest; for he speak for a jack-an-ape to Anne Page” 
(Merry Wives, ii, 3). 

We know that tame apes ^ and marmosets were common 
medieval pets. We also know that exotic animals were fre- 
quently named, not from the countries of their origin, but 
from places with which they are vaguely associated. The 
turkey is a North- American bird, the guinea-pig was named 
from the Guineamen, or slave-ships, which brought it from 
Brazil (cf. gallipot) ^ the bantam^ which is a Japanese bird, 
bears the name of a place in Java, and so on. 

What was in the Middle Ages the immediate source of 
supply of tame monkeys? In our own day it is Italy, 
though the Italian organ-grinder and his companion seem 
of late to have vanished from our streets. In the 15th cen- 
tury it was also Italy. In 1436 a patriotic Englishman 
wrote a Libel (= little book) of English Policy,* the burden 
of which is — 

^ Ape is Anglo-Saxon. Monk^ (see p. 167) docs not appear till the 
i6th century. 

* This poem has been reprinted by the Oxford University Press. The 
text here quoted is from Wright’s Political Poems (v.s.). 



JOLLY-BOAT 

Qieryshc marchandyse, kcpe thamyralt^. 

That we be maystcrs of the narowe see. 

One passage deals with luxury imports (“thynges of com- 
placence’’) brought from Italy: 

The grctc galees of Venees and Fflorence 
Be wel ladene wyth thynges of complacence, 

Alle spiccrye and of grocers ware, 

Wyth swete wynes, all manere of chafiare,^ 

Apes and japes and marmusettes taylede . . . 

I am aware that Venice is not Naples, but, on the other 
hand, Florence is not a seaport. It seems quite possible 
that apes and marmosets, not to mention “japes,” brought 
from Italy may have been associated with so well known a 
port as Naples, and that “Jack of Naples” may thus have 
become a regular name for a captive monkey. This would 
become Jackanapes as inevitably as “fustian of Naples” 
became “fustian-anapes,” a material frequently mentioned 
in the i6th century: ^Hripe de velours: veiure, mock velvet, 
fustian an apes” (Cotgrave). 

This etymology is accepted by Webster. 

Jolly-boat 

If schoolboys still read Marryat, which it is to be hoped 
they do, they cannot but be intrigued by the names of the 
ship’s boats as manned for “cutting-out” expeditions. In 
the 1 8th century, 2«:cording to Falconer’s Marine Diction- 
ary (1771)5 merchant-ships seldom had more than two, viz. 
a long-boat and a yawl. In addition to these, a man-of-war 
had, according to the same authority, the barge, “employed 
to carry the principal sea-officers and very unfit for sea,” 
the pinnace and the cutter. The long-boat was later re- 
placed by the launch. The captain’s gig seems to date from 
c. 1 800. It is not mentioned by the nautical dictionaries of 
the 1 8th century. 

^ Merchandise. Now hardly used except as a verb {chaffer) meaning 
to haggle. It is Mid. Eng. cheap-fare^ commerce, from an unrecorded 
Anglo-Sax, clapfmi, trading-journey. 

161 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

Some of these names are rather mysterious. Laumh looks 
simple, but has probably nothing to do with the verb to 
launch. It comes from Sp. lancha^ which is supposed to be 
a Malay word. Pinnace is of quite uncertain origin. As a 
clipper is a ship that **clips,” it might be supposed that a 
cutter is a boat that “cuts,” but it is much more probably a 
sailor’s perversion of caiuty a word from the Malabar coast 
which is recorded in English long before we find any 
mention of the cutter. Another boat name from the East is 
dinghy^ which is Bengali. 

Sailors excel all other people in the gift of perverting 
words from their original forms. If they call a kind of craft 
^ jolly-boat^ it is a reasonable inference that it has nothing to 
do with the word jolly ^ and at least dubious whether it is 
even, etymologically, a “boat.” Some dictionaries un- 
hesitatingly derive thh jolly from Dan. a small boat, a 
word of Low German origin found also in Swedish {julle) 
and Dutch {jol) . This is impossible. In all these languages 
the initial j- has the sound of our y-. Sailors do not take 
their foreign words from dictionaries : they pick them up by 
ear in foreign ports. Dan. jolle or Dutch jol was duly 
adopted by nautical English in the 17th century and 
became om yawl, just as it became ’Fx.yole^ 

It is suggested in Hobson-Jobson ® that jolly-boat is a 
corruption, via the form jolywat, of gallevat, a word now 
obsolete, but well recorded in nautical English from c. 1600. 

If the sailor can convert the ship-name Superb into 
‘^soup-tub,” or make Fr. langouste, a kind of crab, into “long 
oyster,” the substitution jolly-boat for jolywat would obvi- 
ously be well within his powers. It is even possible that the 
older name was shortened to jolly, and that the explanatory 
“boat” was added later. The fact XhsLt jolly-boat is absent 
from the nautical dictionaries of the i8tB century rather 
suggests that, though current among sailors, it was not 
recognized by the official vocabulary. 

^ Formerly called “iole de Norv^.*^ ® See p. 48, n. 2. 

162 



JOLLY-BOAT 

The Tudor warship, like the 18th-century merchantman, 
carried few boats. We find mention in Naval Accounts, 
1495-7, of 'The Soveraigne with her grete bote and jolly- 
watt/^ apparently corresponding to the long-boat and yawl 
of later days (v.s.). The Oxford Dictionary quotes, from 
Purchas (1613), "As soone as I anchored, I sent Master 
Spooner and Samuell Squire in my gellywatte to sound the 
depths within the sands.” In the Travels of Peter Mundy 
(1634) a somewhat similar job is given to jolly-boat: 
"Having tryed the currant sundrie tymes with our jolly 
boate.” Earlier still, in the relation of the last voyage of 
Drake and Hawkins (1595), we find the simple jolly: "That 
day the Pegasus jolly was going on shore for water, carrying 
no guarde. The Spaniards perceiving it came downe upon 
them.” These examples, suggesting the identity of the jolly 
or jolly-boat with thejolywat^ are much older than those given 
by the Oxford Dictionary, ^ in which the earliest quotations 
dite jolly-boat from Chambers’s Cyclopaedia (1727-41) and 
jolly from Marryat. 

Whether the jolywat is identical with the galUvaty which 
is taken to be an Eastern corruption of Port, galeota^ a 
diminutive of galea, a galley, is a matter of dispute. The 
initial consonant is an obvious difficulty. The Oxford 
Dictionary further objects that the gallevat was equipped 
with sails, had forty or fifty rowers, and carried guns. This 
does not seem a serious objection. Names of craft have 
always been very vaguely used. The frigate,* another 
mysterious word, was, for the Elizabethan sailors, a rowing- 
boat. Most of the boat names occurring in this article are, 
or have been, used both of smaU craft and larger vessels, and 
the galley-punt of the Deal fishermen is neither a galley nor 
a punt. 

^ For the earliest see Maclehosc’s reprint of Hakluyt, x, 241. Peter 
Mundy’s Travels (ed. Temple) was not available when the editors of the 
Oxford Dictionary were occupied with J. 

® Revived, during World War II, along with corvette, to describe 
light naval craft engaged on convoy duty. 

163 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


Kestrel 

This name for a kind of hawk is recorded for the 15th 
century as cmtrell^ with later variants in kest-^ kist-^ kaist-^ 
heist-. The bird was also called a staniel (see Twelfth Nighty 
ii, 5), tzxlmx steingal, from Anglo-Sax. stone-yeller, 

from its voice, or wind-hover^ from its way of sustaining itself 
in the air. It is well known to be from Fr. cricerelle^ a dim. 
of cricelle^ with the same meaning in Old French, but 
the Oxford Dictionary traces its history no farther, while 
Webster suggests a Lat. cristarellns^ from crista^ crest, hardly 
a good description of a bird that has no crest. 

The clue to the origin of the name is to be found in the 
works of Columella, whose great agricultural treatise, De Re 
Rustica, was written c. 60 b.c. It was from this author 
that Cooper took his description of the Lat. 'Hinninculus: a 
kinde of haukes; a kistreil or a kastreli; a steyngali. They 
use to set them to pigeon-houses, to make doves to love the 
place, because they feare away other haukes with their 
ringing voice.” A variant of the Latin name is tintirmuculus. 
It comes from Lat. ^Uinnire: to ring and make a cleare 
souijde as metali doth” (Holyoak, 1612), and the bird was 
obviously named from its voice. Ambroise Pare, the 
famous 16th-century French surgeon, also records the popu- 
lar belief: “La crescerelle de son naturel espouvente les 
espreviers (sparrow-hawks) de sorte qu’ils fuyent sa veue 
et sa vobc.” 

Gotgrave has ''cercerelle: a rattle, clicket, or clapper; also a 
kastreli, steingall”; ^^crecerelle: a rattle, or clack, for children 
to play with; also a kcstrell, fleingall,” and ^^cresserelle: a 
rattle, or clack, for children; also a kcstrell, stanniell, 
fleingall.” The last entry is curious, because fleingall, a 
misprint for steingally is really the same word as stanniell. 
This misprint, due to confusion between /if and //, resulted 
in a “ghost-word” recorded in many later dictionaries. 

Creceile and crecerelle had in Old French the special mean 
164 



LEGERDEMAIN 


ing of a ^lazer’s ciicket or clapper” with which a leper 
warned people not to approach him. It was perhaps this 
particular sense of the word that caused the nickname to be 
applied to a bird which was credited with the gift of frighten- 
ing other hawks away with its “ringing voice.” 

Legerdemain 

The Oxford Dictionary derives this synonym of “sleight 
of hand” from Fr. leger de mairiy light of hand. This etymo- 
logy is quite correct^ but the Dictionary fails to deal with the 
serious objection that legerdemain is a noun only, and has 
never existed as such in French. Moreover, though Fr. 
tiger de main means light of touch, it is an adjective and does 
not appear ever to have been used in connection with con- 
juring. If it had been so used, its Mid. English equivalent 
would rather have been “sly of hand” than “sleight of 
hand,” for sleight is the abstract noun from sly^ which, before 
its degeneration, meant wise or skilful (see quotation from 
Wyclif, p. 146). 

Sleight is in Chaucer a general term for adroitness, dex- 
terity, occurring also in such compounds as “sleight of 
heart,” “sleight of wit,” while “sleight of hand” is found 
side by side with legerdemain from the early 15th century- 
onward. The simple sleight was also used of a trick or 
knack: 

So did the villaine to her prate and play. 

And many pleasant trickes before her show, 

To tume her eyes from his intent away: 

For he in slights and jugling feates did flow, 

And of legicr dcmaync the mysteries did know. 

(Faerie Queenc, V, ix, 13.) 

The spelling slight for sleight is recorded in the 14th cen- 
tury, and I suggest that legerdemain came into existence as a 
mistranslation of “slight of hand,” by a vague confusion 
with the unrelated adjective slight^ of which the regular 
French equivalent is leger. Such mistranslations were not 

165 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

uncommon during the bilingual age in England; cf. the 
historical frankpledge, the Anglo-Norman translation of 
Anglo-Sax./nliiiof/iEj peace-pledge, the first element having 
been misunderstood as meaning ‘Tree.’’ 

Merry grig 

There are some Christian names which are traditionally 
associated with domestic service. Familiar examples are 
Thackeray’s Jeames and the Abigail who dates from Beau- 
mont and Fletcher’s Scornful Lady (i6io). Congreve 
makes a character say, “I am brought to fine uses, to be- 
come a botcher of second-hand marriages between Andrews 
and Abigails” (Way of the World, v, i ) . Andrew was especi- 
ally used of the conjurer’s assistant, or who excited 
laughter by parodying his master’s tricks; hence “ merry 
Andrew” for a kind of recognized jester. Gregory was also 
a stock name for a man-servant, e.g. in Romeo and Juliet 
and The Taming of the Shrew, so it seems possible that the 
“merry Andrew” and the “merry grig” (old pet-form of 
Gregory) may once have been identical. There is, how- 
ever, no evidence of this, the “merry grig” dating from the 
early i6th century in the sense of “good fellow.” 

The word grig is used in dialect, like many other familiar 
names, of various small animals, but the grig, cricket, given 
in some dialect glossaries, seems to be an unwarranted in- 
ference from the expression “as merry as a cricket.” This 
association may have coloured the later sense of “merry 
grig,” originally a jovial blade, boon companion, in which 
sense both grig and Gregory were once used without the 
“merry.” It may be noted that Grdgoire is, or was, French 
slang for a toper, frequently rhyming with hoire in drinking- 
songs of the 1 6th century. Gregory is used (1590) by 
Massinger, who has “my Gregories,” i.e. my boon com- 
panions, in a context similar to that in which Brome (1638) 
has “my grigs.” Gregorians were still a convivial society 
^ It. Z^mi, dialect pet-form of Giovanni, John. 


166 



MONKEY 


in tlic 1 8th century's and the following lines from Crabbe are 
suggestive: 

Griggs and Grcgoriaiis here their meetings hold; 

Convivial sects and “bucks” alert and bold. 

(The Borough, x, 349.) 

Monkey 

Ape is Angio-Sax. apa^ a common Teutonic word; cf. 
Dutch aap^ Ger. qffe (whence nachdffen^ to ape). As the ape 
does not belong to the fauna of the old Teutonic world, it is 
probable that the name was borrowed in prehistoric times 
from some non- Aryan race. Monkey is not found in English 
till 1530, i.e. about a century later thsji jackanapes (p. 158), 
and the earliest records suggest that, like the latter word, it 
was especially used of tame monkeys or marmosets. There 
are also an Old Fr. monequiny which looks like a word of 
Flemish origin, and an obsolete It. ^‘monicchio: a pugge, a 
munkie, an ape” (Floiio). The relation of these words to 
each other and to monkey is obscure. 

The conferring of personal names on animals is a familiar 
phenomenon. A notable example is Fr. renardy a fox, from 
the famous beast-epic of Renard le goupil (Lat. vulpiculuSy 
dim, of mlpes)y where Renard represents the Old High 
German name Reginhart, strong in counsel. The name 
is akin to Reginald, and Spenser calls the fox Reynold. 
RenardhdiS completely replaced described by Gotgrave 
as a “vieux mot.” Our earliest versions of the Reynard 
saga are in Old French, but most of the names of the 
animals are Teutonic, Noble, the lion, and Ghantecler, the 
cock, being probably later French additions to the original 
cycle. Bruin, brown, comes to us from the Flemish version, 
translated into English by Caxton. 

The Low German version, Reinke de Vos, dates from 
1498. In 1794 it was translated into modern German by 
Goethe. Reinke is a Low German dim. of Reginhart. In this 
version the ape is named Martin and his son is Moneke, a 
dim. of some old German personal name which still exists 

167 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

as a surname with many variants {Munckcj Mohmkcj 
Mohnke, etc.)- Heinrich Moneke and Johann Godeke 
were envoys from Prussia to England in 1403. I fancy that 
the choice of the name and its ready acceptance in England 
were partly due to popular association with monk^ Ger. 
monch^ Dutch and Low Ger. monik. In my picture-book 
days I always associated the cowled ‘‘monk” with the 
“monkey,” and I find, on inquiry, that the childish experi- 
ence of many potent, grave and reverend philologists was 
similar to my own. 

Although our loan-words from modern German are few 
in number and mostly recent in date, our borrowings from 
the Low German dialects of the North Sea and Baltic 
coasts are comparatively ancient. We know that German 
court musicians were “imported” as early as the 15th cen- 
tury, which explains the early occurrence of fife (see p. 83), 
and I see no difficulty in supposing that German showmen 
may have introduced their Moneke into England at an 
equally early date. 

Mop 

The earlier form of mop was map (15th century). In an 
Etymological Dictionary which I published in 1921 , 1 gave, 
with many misgivings, the traditional etymology from Old 
Fr. mappe, napkin. The obvious objections are that a nap- 
kin is not a mop, that Old Fr. mappe is a very rare word (for 
the usual nappe) ^ found only in the Walloon dialect, and that 
there is no reason why we should have given a foreign name 
to so elementary and necessary an implement. A further 
objection, and one which puts the Walloon word quite out 
of court, is that Mid. Eng. mappe is short for an earlier 
mappUy just as huff^ leather and colour, is short for an early 
bu£ky Old French for a wild ox (buffalo). 

When we find in the Promptorium Parvulorum (1440) 
the entry “malkyne, mappyl, or oven swepare,” and another 
entry “mappel, idem quod malkyn,” we are getting warm. 
im 



MOP 


The application of personal names to handy devices is a 
familiar linguistic phenomenon. The burglar's jemmy will 
occur to every reader. The contrivance which destroys our 
shirt-buttons is well known all over England as a doily or 
pggy, Malkin^ which is an old diminutive of Matilda or 
Maud (Mid. English also Maide), probably also of Mary 
(familiarly Mai), was colloquial Mid. English for a wench^ 
a slut and a mop. Later it came to mean a rag-doll and a 
scarecrow, in both of which senses it is still in dialect use 
(e.g. in Adam Bede). Malkin is also a dialect nickname for 
the hare, in which connection it is worth noting that 
mapkin is similarly used of the rabbit. It seems a reasonable 
inference that mapple^ like malkin, was originally a personal 
name. 

That name is Mabel, for the older Amabel, a common 
Mid. English font-name, to which we owe the modern sur- 
names Mabbs, Mabley, Mabbott, Maple, Mapple, Maple- 
son and Mobbs. Neither the substitution of -p for nor 
the change to -(?- (cf. Molly for Mally, i.e. Mary, Moggy for 
^2.ggy, etc.) is at all abnormal. 

The rather pretty name Mabel seems to have been especi- 
ally rustic. Writing in 1863, Charlotte Yonge says, ‘Tt is 
still used among the northern peasantry.’* Soon after that 
date it came into fashion and had a great vogue dxiring the 
second half of the 19th century. But in early records it 
often carries the implication of slut, hag, etc. In the Friar’s 
Tale, Satan addresses the cunning old crone as ‘‘Mabely, 
myn owene moder deere” CGhaucer, D. 1626). In the 
i6th-eentury play of Jacob and Esau occurs the line ‘*Come 
out, thou mother Mab, out olde rotten witche.” 

We now think of Queen Mab as a dainty apparition with 
gauzy petticoats and gossamer wings; but to the Middle 
Ages elves were malevolent demons and their queen a 
grisly hag, to whom was naturally given a proper name 
already used as a term of vituperation. She was even 
identified with the nightmare (see p. 71). 

M 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

Map was used in the 1 6th century for a mop, and the verb 
to mob meant to dress like a slattern. We have also mabhle 
or mobble, to wrap up the head. Shakespeare’s ^^moblcd ^ 
Queen” (Hamlet, ii, 2) had “a clout about that head where 
late the diadem stood.” So also the variant raob was 
applied in the 17 th century both to a naughty lady and to a 
ndglige attire, especially the morning dress of the slattern* 
Steele, in the Spectator, alludes to “wrapping gowns and 
dirty linen, with all that huddled economy of dress which 
passes under the general name of a mob.” This survives in 
the mob-^cap, which was earlier a simple mob: “Her head- 
dress was a Brussels-lace mob, peculiarly adapted to the 
charm and turn of her features” (Clarissa Harlowe). 

Mop was not only used of a rag-doll, but also playfully of a 
baby or a young girl, a “flapper,” and in this sense often 
lengthened to mops or moppet On the latter was rhymed 
poppet (like Peggy for Meggy), and this was later confused 
with puppety which is of French origin (cf. Fr. poupie^ a doll) . 

MuIKgrabs 

This name for a fit of the sulks is now rather old-fashioned 
and I doubt whether the modern child would understand 
it. The earliest record in the Oxford Dictionary is for 
1599, but the word must be very much older, for Mulligrubs 
a “sharking vintner,” is a character in Marston’s Dutch 
Courtesan (1605). It is sufficiently obvious that only a 
word of fairly long standing would thus be used as a nick- 
name (cf. the case of haphazards p. 153). 

In 1769, Isaac Bickerstaffe adapted Moliere’s Tartufe as 
The Hypocrite, giving to the principal character the name 
Mawworm, from the common noun “mawworm,” an 
intestinal parasite. I think it can be shown that a mulligruh 
was originally a “mawworm.” 

Warwickshire word. Other words from Shakespeare’s native 
county are ^^blood-boltered Banquo” (Macbeth, iv, i) and ^^rmk^skotten 
isle” (Henry V, iii, 5). 

170 



ORIEL 


The Oxford Dictionary describes mulligrubs as a *'gro- 
tesque arbitrary formation,’’ meaning a fit of spleen or meg- 
rims, hence jocularly stomach-ache. With all deference, I 
have very little faith in ‘‘ grotesque arbitrary formations,” 
nor do I agree with the suggested order of meanings, which 
would be against all semantic experience. Cf. ""spleen,” 
""megrims,” ‘"vapours,” ail originally physical, and the 
dialect "‘mumps,” e.g. mulligrubs or mumps: a counterfeit 
fit of the suilens” (Dictionary of the Canting Grew, c. 1700). 
It happens that the earliest literary example has to do with 
mental discomfort, but the oldest dictionary records have 
the form mouldy-grubs^ explained as tormina ventris^ vulgarly 
“belly-ache,” in connection with which it may be noted 
that ill-tempered grumbling is sometimes called “belly- 
aching” by the unrefined and is recognized in this sense as 
American slang by Webster. The second example in the 
Oxford Dictionary is “Whose dog lyes sick o’ the mulli- 
grubs?” This suggests the disease called worms or bots to 
which some animals are subject. The Latin name for this 
trouble is ^^verminatio: a wringing paine of the guts” (Holy- 
oak) or ^Humbricus: an earthly worme, also a belly or maw 
worm” (ibid.). 

Mull is an old word for mould, and muUy still means 
mouldy in Norfolk. Grub once had the sense of Hoiyoak’s 
“earthly worm” and is glossed by lumbricus or vermiculus in 
Latin dictionaries of the 17th century. The belief that 
diseases were caused by internal parasites is very old and 
widespread, and it is clear, at least to me, that the mully^ or 
mouldy^ grub was originally a “mawworm.” 

Oriel 

Oriel College, Oxford, is properly St. Mary’s College, 
a name still perpetuated in St. Mary’s Hall. At the founda- 
tion of the College (1326) a grant was made of a messuage 
known as “the Oriole.” This was occupied by the provost 
and fellows, the “society of the Oriole.” It was probably a 

171 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

house with a conspicuous oriel window. An oriel is now, 
according to the Oxford Dictionary, “a large recess with a 
window, of polygonal plan, projecting from the outer face 
of the wail of a building and either supported from the 
ground or on corbels/’ Its earliest meaning is a little 
doubtful, but it seems likely that it always formed out- 
wardly a projection and inwardly a recess or sanctum, such 
as may be seen in many college hails. The word has been 
much discussed. In 1831 a Mr. W. Hamper contributed to 
Archaeoiogia an exhaustive article on all the known occur- 
rences and supposed meanings of the word, concluding with 
the grotesque suggestion that the oriel is named as being 
‘Ver ail!” 

The oldest forms are Anglo-Fr. oriol (c. 1 200) and Med. 
Lat. oriolum (c. 1250), explained by Du Cange as ‘‘porticus, 
atrium.” These forms would correspond phonetically to a 
Lat. aureolum (cf. Fr. oreille from Lat. auricula) ^ a fact which 
has led some etymologists to see in the oriel a gilded apart- 
ment. The aureolum which has become oriel has, however, 
no connection with aurum, gold. 

The earliest record of Old Fr. oriol seems to show a mean- 
ing very similar to that of the modern word. In Stanley’s 
Memorials of Canterbury we read, "Robert de Broc, who 
had known the palace during the time of its occupation by 
his uncle Randolf, called out, ‘Follow me, good sirs, I will 
show you another way,’ and got into the orchard behind the 
kitchen. There was a staircase leading thence to the ante- 
chamber between the hall and the Archbishop’s bedroom. 
The wooden steps were under repair, and the carpenters 
had gone to their dinner, leaving their tools on the stairs. 
Fitzurse seized an axe, and the others hatchets, and thus 
armed they mounted to the ante-chamber, broke through 
an oriel window which looked out on the garden, entered 
the hail from the inside,” etc. 

This is a free, and not quite clear, rendering of the almost 
contemporary accoxmt to be found in Guernes de Pont- 
172 



ORIEL 


Sainte-Maxence’s Vie Saint Thomas le Martir, of which the 
essential passage runs: 

A Fuis de la chambre out un orio! fcrmc, 

Dreit devers le chardin, qui out maint jor est6. 

Pur rcfaire erent dune abatu li degre, 

E li carpentier erent a lur disner al6. 

A cel oriol sunt li chevalier turn<§. 

The Old French context rather suggests that Robert man- 
aged to clamber up to the oriel and let down a ladder for his 
companions. 

The Med. Lat. oriolum occurs in Matthew Paris, who 
speaks of “atrium nobilissimum in introitu quod porticus 
vel oriolum appellatur.” It would appear from this that 
such a structure was a very ornamental atriolum. The Latin 
name for a hall or court was atrium^ but the Romans also 
borrowed aula from Greek, and it was the latter word that 
prevailed, to the exclusion of atrium^ in Med. Latin. The 
correct diminutive of aula is aulula^ but, under the influence 
of atriolum^ Late Latin apparently adopted aulaeolum^ from 
aulaeum, a curtain, in the sense of little halL^ 

That this is not a mere conjecture appears from the fact 
that atdaeolum, sanctuary, shrine or oratory, is recorded by 
Du Cange from the Boilandists’ Martyrologium. Here is 
the entry in full : ^^Auleolum: sacellum, ab aula, ecclesia, de 
qua suo loco, Miraculo S. Urbani Mart. tom. 6 Maii pag. 
i8: Tn qua benedictione dum carpentarii vellent aptare 
analogium ad sermonicandum de auleolo S. Urbani, ubi 
solebat poni corpus Urbani pretiosi martyris, exigente 
ratione temporis membratim disjunctum nuliatenus redin- 
tegrare valuerunt.’ ” 

This passage seems to mean that in the course of this 
consecration, some joiners, while attempting to fit a pulpit 
in the shrine or oratory of St. Urban, where the body of the 

^ There would also be a natural connection between a sanctum and a 
curtain. Cf. Late Lat, coriim, used in the double sense of small court 
and curtain. 


m 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

precious martyr Urban used to be laid, to meet the exig- 
encies of the moment divided him into joints and then were 
quite unable to put him together again. It may be taken as 
proving the existence of auleolum in something 13 ce the 
required sense. 

Although a monkish scribe would naturally write 
auleolum^ the popular pronunciation would almost certainly 
be aureoium, French has an invincible antipathy to the 
recurrence of 14 , n-n, or r-r. Thus Old Fr. lossignol becomes 
fossignol. Old Fr. gonfanon becomes gonfalon, Old Fr. couroir 
becomes couloir, and the same phenomenon was common in 
Vulgar Latin (see pilgrim, p. i8o). Nor is this aureolum only 
a conjectural form. In a 15th-century Latin-German 
glossary published by Diefenbach in 1846 occurs the gloss 
^^aulea, vel aureola: fur hang (= Ger. vorhang, curtain).” 
The fact that it is used here in the true sense, and not the 
*‘oriel” sense, of auleolum, makes no difference to the 
phonetic argument. 

Palmistry 

As casuistry stands for the art of the casuist, it might be 
supposed thoX palmistry is the art of the “palmist.” So it is, 
but not etymologically. “Palmist” is quite a modern word, 
introduced with that odd revival of medieval superstition 
that characterized the later 19th century. The earlier 
name for a hand-reader was “palmester,” the word used by 
Cooper to explain chiromantes. “Palmester” again is not a 
true word, but a back-formation from palmistry, a common 
word in the Middle Ages. The oldest form is Mid. Eng. 
palmestrie, used by Lydgate and Gower. This is a disguised 
compound, “palm-mystery.” 

Mystery is an old word for craft or calling. Salvation 
Yeo’s father “exercised the mystery of a barber-surgeon” 
(Westward Hoi ch. 7). Its modern spelling, for mistery, 
misiry, is due to mistaken association with the other word 
mystery (Gr. fMorrypLov, rite, secret ceremony), an associa- 
174 



PALMISTRY 


tion which at an early date influenced its meaniogj giving 
it a suggestion of secret skill. This association would also be 
helped by the existence of such craft-gilds as the “free- 
masons/’ ^ with their cryptic code. The two ^‘mysteries*’ 
are sometimes punned on by the Elizabethans. 

We still speak of the “art and mystery” of a trade, a 
phrase corresponding to Fr. “art et metier.” Mystery , craft, 
corresponds in sense to Fr. metier^ earlier ^^mestier: a trade, 
occupation, misterie, handicraft” (Gotgrave), which is 
usually derived from Lat. ministerium, service, but also 
represents Old Fr. maistier, Lat. magisterium,* mastery. 
The form of misiery is due rather to its representing Mid. 
English and Old Fr. maistrie^ mastership, skill, the vowel 
of which has been thinned like that of master (Mr,), now 
pronounced mister. The “crafts or mysteries of York,” 
whose religious plays® (c. 1430) have come down to us, 
were called “rriaistries.” 

Mid. Eng. maistrie (also mestrie) meant skill, knowledge, 
and is used of a magic trick by the wicked “chanoun” in the 
Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale: 

Taketh good hecdc yc shul wel seen at eye 
That I wol doon a maistrie cr I go. 

(Chaucer, G. 1059.) 

This maistrie, mestrie, already popularly associated with 
“mysterious” knowledge, would be a natural translation of 

^ Originally a gild of highly skilled travelling masons, of whom we 
find records from the 14th century onward. VT.franc-magon and Ger. 
freitnaurer arc adapted from English. The reason for the “free’* is much 
disputed, but it is, at any rate, a curious coincidence that they were 
workers in “freestone,” from Old "Fufranchepierre, noble stone. 

* The magister, master, was the “major”; the ninister, servant, was the 
“minor.” 

®The plays themselves are often called “mysteries” or “mystery- 
plays,” and at one time it was believed that they were so called because 
performed by gilds (“misteries”) of craftsmen. This use of “mystery” is, 
however, comparatively modem in English, and corresponds to the 
French use of mysUre, religious rite, for a sacred play. 


175 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

Gr. }xavT€La^ divination, whence ckm-mamy, lit, hand- 
divination, and one -wi- of “palm-maistrie” would auto- 
matically disappear. Some of the early lexicographers 
seem to have recognized the connection, e.g. Holyoak has 
^^chiromantia: palmaistrie.” 

Pearmain 

The little book which was my horticultural guide, 
philosopher and friend describes the Worcester pearmain as 
of “fair’’ quality, with the added faint praise, “Its colour 
sells the crops.” This hardly does justice to a very worthy 
apple, which, in the Middle Ages, was a warden pear ! In 
the medieval Latin diction^xlcs pearmain is always glossed by 
mlemum, a pear mentioned by Virgil and explained by a 
Roman etymologist as so called “quod volam compleat 
magnitudine,” i.e. because it fills the palm of the hand 
with its bulk.^ The Gatholicon Anglicum (1483) has 
^parmayn: volemum, Anglic^ a warden.” Cooper (1573) 
has ^^volema: great peares, wardens.” The 1650 edition of 
Gotgrave still has ^ poire de parmain: the permaine peare,” 
but, by about 1600, the word had begun to be used of an 
apple, its only modern sense, though in the current spelling 
we may perhaps trace some association with its past history. 

Holyoak (1612) gives, in his list of apples, ^pompire or 
pearemaine: melapium, pyrimalum.” Here we catch the 
word in the act. Pompire, melapium and pyrimalum^ all 
meaning “apple-pear,” suggest that the apple was named 
from possessing some feature or quality regularly associated 
with the pearmain-pear or warden-pear. By the i8th century 
the pear has definitely become, for Johnson, “an apple.” 

The word is Old Fr. parmain^ permaine used of both fruits, 
its form and masculine gender (while poire and pomme are 

^ Isidore of Seville, who mentions this etymology, adds, “Quidam 
autem volemum Gallica lingua bonum et magnum intellegunt.” 
Walde, deriving volemum from Oscan valaemorfi, best, suggests that 
Isidore’s “Gallica” may be a vague term for an unknown tongue. 

176 



PEARMAIN 


feminine) suggesting that it may have originally been an 
adjective applied to any kind of fruit Editors of Old 
French texts seem to render permain arbitrarily by apple or 
pear. Thus, in the 12th-century Vie de Saint-Gilles, 
‘*cooinz, permeins, pesches e fies’’ is explained as quinces, 
apples, peaches and figs, while in the epic poem Boon dc la 
Roche, also 12th-century, “pomes et poires et parmains” is 
supposed to mean apples, pears and “pears.’’ It survives 
in Normandy in the feminine form permaine (sc. pomme), A 
plausible etymology from Lat. permagnus, very large, has 
been suggested; but it is hardly likely thait permagnus should 
have passed, in this one special sense, into French, which 
rejected the simple magnus^ in favour of its synonym 
grandis. 

The origin usually accepted connects the word with the 
town of Parma. The Oxford Dictionary says, “M.E. a. 
O.F. permain^ app. ad. L. parmanus of Parma: see W. 
Foerster in Zeitschr. f. Rom. Phil. 1899, xxiii, 423.” So 
also Webster. The Oxford Dictionary here departs some- 
what from its usually cautious attitude. There is not an 
atom of evidence to connect the warden pear or the pear- 
main apple with Parma, or with Italy at all, nor is there 
any record of a Latin adjective Farmanus, 

As the warden pear was probably so-called from its keep- 
ing qualities (v.i.), it seems reasonable to suppose that its 
alternative name may also have referred to its “perman- 
ency.” There is an Old French verb permaindre or par-- 
maindrey to endure, from Lat. permanereJ^ It occurs in 15th- 
century Scots as parmayne. Old French sometimes formed 
adjectives from verbs (see examples, p, 146). So I con- 
jecture that from parmaindrsy to last, was evolved an adjec- 
tive parmain, applied especially to fruits of keeping quality. 

^ The only certain survival of magnus in French is in the name 
Charlemagne y of learned formation. 

* It reaUy represents Vtdgar Lat. permanere; cf. remainder ^ which is Old 
Fr. rmmndre, Vulgar Lat. remanerey for retmmere. 


177 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

That the word existed appears from the Old French 
adverb d parmain, usually explained as “immediately/’ but 
meaning also, in early records, “in perpetuity/® an idea 
more often rendered in Old French by permanabkrmnt 
Lacurne de Sainte-Palaye quotes, from an Old French 
poem of the 13th century; 

Amors m’ont si par tot le cors saisi, 

Que a parmain iert ma joie fenie, 

which may be rendered, “Love has so enthralled my whole 
being that my happiness will be ended Tor keeps.® ®® 

The warden pear, Mid. Eng. wardoHy is chiefly familiar, in 
collocation with pie, to those Victorian survivors who still 
appreciate The Ingoidsby Legends. It was no doubt from 
Shakespeare (Winter®s Tale, iv, 2) that Barham borrowed 
warden-pie : 

And near this fleshlcss skeleton a pitcher small did He 
And a mouldy piece of ‘^kissing-crust,” as from a warden-pic. 

(Nell Cook.) 

The records of the word show that warden and pearmain 
were formerly used indifferently for a hard winter pear used 
for stewing or baking. Palsgrave defines war don as “poire a 
cuire, poire de garde.” Cotgrave explains poire de garde as 
“a warden, or winter peare, a peare which may be kept 
verie long.’® Johnson notes “wardens bak’d’ ® as a street-cry, 
with the wise comment, “I know not whence denominated.” 

There can be little doubt that Mid. Eng. wardon is an 
Anglo-French derivative (like Fr. jeton from jeter) of Old Fr. 
warder, to keep, a north-eastern variant of garder. The later 
spelling is a popular assimilation to the more familiar word 
warden, 

Petronel 

A petronel was a flint-lock fire-arm intermediate in size 
between a musket and a pistol. It was used especially by 
178 



PETRONEL 


the cavalry. The Oxford Dictionary dates it from 1577 
and derives it from Fr. petrinal, dialect form of poitrinal^ from 
poitrim, breast, chest : “So called because the butt end 
rested against the chest in firing.’" I regard this theory as a 
hoary superstition, perhaps due to the way in which the 
weapon was slung or fired, and to the 16th-century pronun- 
ciation of Fr. -0Z-, of which we have an example in roide^ 
stiff, pronounced raide and now so spelt. The belief dates 
back to the i6th century, and various explanations are 
given. The earliest is that of Ambroise Pare, the “father of 
modern surgery,” who speaks of the “mousquets poitrinals, 
que Ton ne couche en joue, a cause de leur calibre gros et 
court, mais qui se tirent de la poitrine.” Minsheu des- 
cribes a petronell as a “horseman’s peece first used in the 
Pyrenean mountaines, which hanged them alwayes at their 
breast, readie to shoote, as they doe now at the horse’s 
breast.” This information is derived from Claude Fauchet, 
perhaps the earliest French antiquary, whose interesting 
Antiquites frangoises et gauloises was published in 1579. 
Edward Phillips, Milton’s nephew, tells us, in his New 
World of Words, that this “kind of harquebuse, or horse- 
man’s piece, is so called, because it is to aim at a horse’s 
brest, as it were poictrineV* 

When we turn from fiction to fact, we find that the oldest 
French name was ^^petrinal: a petronell, or horseman’s peece” 
(Gotgrave). The same dictionary records ^^poictrinal: a 
great, and heavy petronell, shorter, but of a wider bore than 
a musket.” The French word appears to be borrowed 
either from It. ‘^petronello, pietronello: a petronell” (Florio), 
or from Sp. ^'pedrenal: a petronell, a horseman’s peece, ita 
diet, quod silice petra incenditur” (Minsheu, Spanish Diet.). 
Thus Minsheu knew the true origin of the name, though he 
put the fiction in his later work. We find various other 
forms in Italian and Spanish, but they all go back to It. 
pietray petra^ or Sp. piedra, pedra^ stone, flint, and can have no 
connection with derivatives of Lat. pectusy breast (It. petto^ 

179 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


Sp. pecho). The form of our word suggests that it came 
straight from Italian. 

The peironel dates from the substitution of the w'heel-lock 
or flint-lock for the old match-lock and there is evidence 
that this substitution was first effected in the cavalry. 
Gtr.Jlinte, musket, from Old Dutch, is another example of 
the naming of a fire-arm from its principal feature. An- 
other is Fr. fusil, whence our fusilier. This comes from 
Med. IjKt^fociU, steel for striking sparks. It was commonly 
spelt/iif#^ otfuzee in the 1 7-1 8th centuries, e.g. in Robinson 
Crusoe. 

On the etymology of peironel I had many years ago a 
correspondence with the late Sir Frederick Pollock, whose 
encyclopaedic learning included an expert knowledge of 
early weapons. He ended by accepting the etymology 
proposed above. It is also adopted by Webster. 


Pilgrim 

There is a class of words which some Continental philolo- 
gists call “European words,” because they have been 
adopted by all the civilized languages of Europe. Such 
words are often the names of exotic commodities, such as 
pepper, taken immediately from Latin, but ultimately from 
the East, in almost prehistoric times, or tea, of much more 
recent adoption from Chinese. There dre two important 
groups of early “European words” of Latin origin. One of 
them includes those terms the general adoption of which 
points to the pre-eminence of the Romans in trade, war, the 
arts of peace and administration, while the other consists of 
“Church words.” 

In the case of both these groups of Latin words it some- 
times happened that the Teutons made a choice different 
from that of the Romance nations. We have already seen 
this in the case of Kaiser (p. 62). Church, Gr. KvpioKa, 
t8o 



PILGRIM 


from Kvptos, Lord, is a striking example from the Chris- 
tian group, the Romance languages preferring ecclesia^ 
whence Fr. eglise and our place-name Eccles, the latter due 
to the converted ancient Britons. Pilgrim has been univers- 
ally accepted, e,g. Ger. pilgrim (usually pilger)^ Dutch 
pelgrim, Old Norse pilagrimr^ though, as often happens, 
there are native coinages which compete with the imported 
word, e.g. Dutch bedevaerty prayer journey, Ger. wallfahrty 
wander journey, from walleUy cognate with Eng. walky and 
fahreuy to travel, fare. 

The ultimate origin of the word is simple. It is Lat. 
peregrinusy^ stranger, foreigner, from peregety one abroad, 
from pety through, agety field, land; but the form of the 
English word and its method of adoption need some 
explanation. 

There is in many languages an instinctive tendency to 
corrupt a word in which the sound of /, n, or r* is repeated, 
by substituting another sound from the same group. This 
is called “dissimilation” (see oriely p. 174). Such dissimila- 
tion was common in Vulgar Latin, e.g. Px.flairery to smell, 
sniff, is Vulgar Lat. Jlagrarey for classical fragrare. One of 
the Roman grammarians whose works have survived warns 
his pupils to say Jlagellumy^ not fragellum. 

For peregrinus the Romans said pelegrinus* This form is 
recorded in an inscription of the 4th century and has given 
all the descended words, except Sp. peregrino. The •m of 
pilgrim is due to a Teutonic fondness for that final, especially 
exemplified in English, e.g. vellum (Fr. velin), venom (Fr. 
venin)y grogram (Old Fr. gros grain) y etc. The word was 
adopted in Old High German in the gth century, and is 
recorded in English, also as pelegrimy from the 12th. Both 

^ The “peregrine falcon” was so called becaiise caught on its passage. 

® This applies to other sounds also, but these three liquids furnish the 
simplest examples. 

® Hence Eng. j2ai7. I am told that in Norfolk this is sometimes cor- 
rupted to frail. Thus word-history repeats itself. 

iBi 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

represent It. pellegrinOy^ probably the earliest Italian word 
adopted by Teutonic. 

The reason for this remarkably early borrowing is obvious 
to anyone who considers geographically the old path to 
Rome. The pilgrim on his way through France would hear 
himself called a peleririy but, when he got into the south, 
with a view to embarking at Marseilles, he would get to 
know the Provencal pelegrin. If, as a really virtuous pilgrim, 
he avoided the sea-passage and tackled the Alpine passes, 
the Roumansh pelegrin would also greet his ears. Either of 
these would account for the German and English words, 
but the name by which the Holy City herself saluted him 
would naturally stamp itself most deeply on his memory. 

Plot 

The accepted meaning of a word may be definitely fixed 
by an historical event. This has happened to plot^ the cur- 
rent use of which dates from ‘‘Gunpowder treason and plot.’’ 
The oldest sense of the word appears to be a piece of 
ground. It is recorded once only in Anglo-Saxon, in a 
passage from a “charm” of the nth century, in which it 
appears to have been rather dragged in for the sake of alli- 
teration: “Ne plot ne ploh, ne turf ne toft, ne furh ne fot- 
mael, ne land ne laese,” which may be rendered, “Neither 
plot nor plough-land, neither turf nor toft, neither furrow 
nor foot-measure, neither land nor pasture.” 

The word does not reappear till the 14th century, after 
which it is fairly common in the general sense of patch, por- 
tion of any surface. By the i6th century it has come to 
mean ground-plan, sketch or outline of a literary work, 
senses which still survive. Later in the i6th century it is 
used for scheme, not necessarily nefarious, though some- 
times with such suggestion. Spenser speaks of “divers good 
plottes devised and wise counsells cast alleready about re- 
formation of that realme” (Present State of Ireland). 

^The Oxford Dictionary derivation from a prehistoric form of 
Fr. pilmn is, I think, impossible. 

182 



PLOT 


Although Shakespeare’s use of the word generally sug- 
gests cunning and intrigue — 

Know, worthy prince, Sir Valentine, my friend, 

This night intends to steal away your daughter; 

Myself am one made privy to the plot. 

(Two Gentlemen of Verona, iii, i) — 

he does not, so far as I know, use it in the purely political 
sense. For this he has complot^ introduced from French in 
the 1 6th century. Thus Eolingbroke, accusing Mowbray, 
says: 

Ail the treasons, for these eighteen years 
Complotted and contrived in this land. 

Fetch’d from false Mowbray their first head and spring. 

(Richard II, i, i.) 

So otir word plot^ established in thfe political sense at the 
time of Guy Fawkes, may be regarded as a blend of the 
older plot and the more newly borrowed complot 
Before discussing the etymology of these words, a curious 
variation in pronunciation has to be noted. For “plot of 
ground” we often find plat, e.g., in the Authorized Version, 
“Now therefore take and cast him into the plat [Tyndale, 
plott] of ground, according to the word of the Lord”. (2 
Kings ix. 26). This has been explained as due to the unre- 
lated word plat, fiat surface, as in “plat of the sword” (Fr. 
plat de VipSe), a phrase used by Chaucer, and there is no 
doubt something in this theory. But there was a general 
tendency in later Mid. English and in Tudor times to con- 
fuse the two sounds. Queen Elizabeth wrote stap for stop, 
anticipating by a century and a half Lord Foppington’s 
“Stap my vitals!” Sylvester, in 1592, rhymes wrap and shop. 
Mary Queen of Scots writes to Babington (July 17, 1586), 
“This is the platt which I finde best for this enterprise,” and, 
according to contemporary evidence, Titus Oates, a cen- 
tury later, regularly brayed about the plaat he had dis- 
covered, The form strap has, except in the language of the 

183 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

barber, completely replaced the older and correct stmp,'^ 
We have preserved, as a euphemism, the Gad which was 
once a common variant pronunciation of God^ and the 
comparatively mild drat is a worn-down form of the rather 
vigorous God rot ! For platform, Fr. plate forme, lit. flat form, 
i.e. plane figure, we often findplotform, and, as this was origin- 
ally used in its proper sense of ground-plan, scheme, it was 
no doubt mentally associated with plot, Shakespeare makes 
Joan of Arc say: 

And now there rests no other shift but this, 

To gather our soldiers scatter’d and dispers’d 
And lay new platforms to endamage them. 

(i Henry VI, ii, i.) 

A little later we find, in the old play of Grim the Collier, 
“A sudden plotform comes into my mind.'’ Finally our 
platoon, revived as a military word during World War I, 
from Fr. peloton, a small company, was sometimes written 
ploioon in the i6th century. 

For the etymology of plot the Oxford Dictionary gives 
only the rather doubtful Aoiglo-Saxon word mentioned on 
p. 182. But, as this has no Teutonic congeners, it is pro- 
bably a borrowed word. In my opinion it is Fr. pelote, 
which now means most usually a ball * (of thread, snow, 
etc.) or a pin-cushion. In Old and Modern French it is 
also used of any close aggregation or compact mass, 
whether of persons or things. From the sense of clod would 
easily develop that of ground (the same transition is seen in 
glebe, from Lat. gleba, clod), with which the English history 
of the word starts. 

Complot had a similar sense in Old French, its earliest 
occurrence (12th century) being in reference to a knot or 
bunch of people, a sort of peloton (v.s.). The sense of con- 
spiracy is evolved naturally from that of a closely associated 
group of people. 

^ Anglo-Saxon, from Lat. struppus, 

® Also the ball, Sp. pehU, used in the famous Basque game, 

184 



RINGLEADER 


When wc say that “the plot thickens/’ we have a mental 
image of intrigue becoming more complicated or of mystery 
becoming more dense. I should very much like to know 
the original meaning of this phrase, for which the Oxford 
Dictionary has no record earlier than 1671, and then only 
iti the now accepted sense. I conjecture a development like 
that of French “la pelote se grossit,” lit. the snowball gets 
bigger, now used only figuratively: ''La pelote se grossit dit 
de projets, d’int^rets, de ressentiments qui s’accumulcnt, 
par comparaison avec la pelote de neige qui se grossit en 
roulant” (Littre). The correspondence of this phrase with 
our thickens” seems to me a strong argument for the 

ultimate identity of plot and pelote.^ 

Ringleader 

Human nature being what it is, we are not surprised to 
find that words of complimentary or neutral sense inevitably 
tend to become depreciatory. We can hardly conceive of a 
“ring” of people unassociated with some nefarious purpose, 
or of a ringleader not occupied in crime. Such is the prevail- 
ing sense of the word from its earliest records, and the only 
one known to Shakespeare (2 Henry VI, ii, i), but it does 
not follow that the neutral sense, though less amply exem- 
plified, may not be the original. 

Latimer, in his second sermon before Edward VI, calls 
Joab the ryngleader, i.e. commander, of David’s army. At a 
rather earlier date Coverdale renders the Vulgate “Appre- 
hendit de viris regionis, qui principes erant malitiae, quin- 
quaginta viros” by “He toke L. men of the countre, which 
were the ryngledcrs of them” (i Maccabees, ix. 6 i), where 
the Authori2ed Version has “authors of that mischief”; 
but, elsewhere, translating Erasmus’s Paraphrases to Ephe- 
sians, he writes, “Some he would have to be chief, as 

^ The mute would automatically disappear, as in plaioon or plush, Fr. 
peluche. 

185 


K 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

apostlesj ryng leaders and autours of the gospel preaching,’* 

Ringleader naturally suggests the synonymous Ger. 
^"‘tddelsfuhrer: the ringleader; the head or chief of a tumultu- 
ous, or seditious faction” (Ludwig). Rddel is a South Ger- 
man dim. of rad^ a wheel. It was also used of a ring of 
people. Kluge traces rddelsfuhrer back to the peasant revolts 
of 1520, and quotes from a chronicle of 1525, “Die bauern 
fuhrten damahlen ein pflugs-radl in ihren fahnen, darzu 
sic, als zu einem bauern-werkzeug, geschworen haben, 
beyeinander, gieichwie die spaichen in dem rad, bestandig 
zu verbleiben, dahero das gemeine sprichwort entstanden, 
dass man die aufwickler ^ und aufruhranstiffter noch 
heutiges tags radfiihrer nennet.” ^ if this is correct, there 
can hardly be any connection in origin with the English 
word, which is recorded c. 1500. I must confess, however, 
that the banner with a strange device borne by these early 
rotarians sounds to me very much like the invention of an 
early etymologist, or like an attempt to give emblematic 
significance to the word rddel^ which was also used in the 
1 6th century for a company of landsknechts.® 

I suggest that a ringleader (possibly also a rddelsfuhrer) was 
originally one who led the dance. Before the waltz and the 
lancers were expelled from our ballrooms, they were called 
“round” and “square” dances respectively. But the prac- 
tice of ladies allowing strangers to clutch them by the waist 
and whirl them round the room only came in after 1800. 
The waltz alarmed that eminent puritan Lord Byron (see 

^ For **aufmegler: an uproar-maker, the ringleader of a faction, a 
firebrand of sedition” (Ludwig) . 

® The peasants bore at that time a plough-wheel in their banners, by 
which, as a peasant implement, they had sworn to remain steadfastly 
together, like the spokes of the wheel, whence arQse the common saying 
that firebrands and rebel leaders are still nowadays called radfiihrer. 

* Landsknecht, a mercenary soldier, whence Fr. ^Hansquenet: a lance- 
knight or German footman” (Cotgrave), is from land, country, and 
krmht, “knight,” servant. For an erroneous etymology see Quentin 
Durward, ch. 17. 

186 



RINGLEADER 


lis poem. The Waltz, 1813), and is defined by a writer of 
1825 as a ''riotous and indecent German dance.’’ The 
jarlier ‘‘round” dance was, like the Fr. ronde, a figure dance 
n which the performers were arranged in a round or ‘Ting/’ 
md, although the Oxford Dictionary does not appear to 
‘ecord ring in the specific sense of dance, it can be shown 
y.i.) that it had this sense. 

The earliest Latin dictionary in which I have found our 
/^/ord is Holy oak (1612), who has ^^ringleader : praesultor, 
lux,” a praesultor being, according to Cooper, “he that 
eadeth the daunce among the Romaine priestes called 
laiii Sacerdotes.” Gr. Koput^alos, ringleader, was originally 
:he head of the chorus in Attic drama. In a Nominale of c. 
1340 occurs the French phrase, “Femme treche mene pur 
leduyt,” with the rendering “Woman the ryng leduth for 
joye.” The Oxford Dictionary associates this with ring, 

\ circular group of persons, but Old Fr. treche, properly 
'resce or tresche,^ means dance, and dance only. The modern 
French for a ringleader is meneur, which may very well be 
or the earlier “meneur de ronde ou de treschc.” 

None of the European languages, so far as I know, except 
possibly German (v.s.), offers a parallel formation to 
ingleader. Dutch belhamel, lit. beii-ram, is glossed “ring- 
eader” in 17th-century dictionaries. This is equivalent to 
Ser. ^Heithammel: the bell-weather; the weather that wears 
;he bell, whereby all the flock is led or guided” (Ludwig). 
Bell-wether has the same sense in English. Holinshed, in his 
account of the disputes between the Aquinists and Scotists, 
vrites of “Thomas being the ringleader of the one sect and 
Scotus the belweadder of the other.” 

^ Gf. Provencal and Old It. trasca. The etymology of Old Fr. 
reschier, to dance, is probably Goth, thriskan, to thresh, originally to 
rample: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he trcadeth out the corn” 
Deuteronomy xxv. 4). Our thrash, to belabour, is simply a flaii- 
vieldcr’s metaphor. The original sense of “treading” appears in 
hreshold, of which the second element, though found in all the Teutonic 
anguages, is unexplained. 

187 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


Rmnimage 

The curious change in the meaning of this word ^ is noted 
by Trench in his Select Glossary: ‘Tt is a sea-term, and 
signified at first to dispose with such orderly methods goods 
in the hold of a ship that there should be the greatest poss- 
ible room, or doomage.’ ” This etymology is ultimately 
correct, but there is a good deal of word-history between the 
Teutonic word for space and the modern rummage. 

In a paper read to the Philological Society in 1909, I 
pointed out that rummage was originally a noun, not formed 
in English from room, but representing the synonymous Fr. 
arrumage, now superseded by arrimage. This view is adopted 
by the Oxford Dictionary, which defines rummage as ‘"the 
arranging of casks, etc., in the hold of a ship,’* with an ex- 
ample {fomage) for 1526. This leaves two questions unde- 
cided, viz. the reason why nautical English should have 
borrowed this French word, and the etymology of the latter. 
It seems also to have survived among sailors much later than 
appears from the Oxford Dictionary records, e.g. Lescaiiier 
(1777) has "Ho rummage the hold: changer i’arrimage,** in 
which the idea of moving things about also appears. 

Medieval England drank proportionately much more 
wine than modern England. So considerable was the 
wine-trade that a special impost called tunnage (surviving in 
the historical ‘"tonnage and poundage”), levied on every 
tun of wine, formed an important part of the royal revenue. 
Most of the wine came from Bordeaux, and it was from 
Bordeaux that we borrowed a word originally used in the 

^ This change is well illustrated by the definition in Phillips’s New 
World of Words: ''Rumidge, in navigation, is to remove goods or luggage 
out of a ship’s howld; whence it is also used upon other occasions.” 
Here the original sense is already reversed. This reversalof meaning also 
appears in Skinner’s Etymologicon linguae Anglicanae (1671): “To 
rummage or mme goods, vox nautica, significat autem bona pracsertim in 
fundo navis removere.” The current sense is partly due to Custom 
House vigilance. The nautical use of the word appears in “rummage 
sale,” originally sale of unclaimed goods at the docks. 

i88 



RUMMAGE 


specific sense of stowing casks in a ship’s hold. According 
to Furetiere’s Dictionnaire Universe! (1727)5 *'On dit 
qu’iin vaisseau est mal arrume, lorsqu’ii n’est pas k son 
plomb qui le fait tenir droit sur bout ; car alors les poinsons ^ 
se deplacent, courent et rouient vers la pente et du heurt 
s’enfoncent les uns les autres, ce qui cause de grands cou- 
lages. Arrumeurs sont de petits officiers etablis sur les ports, 
et surtmit en Guyenne, que ie marchand chargeur doit 
fournir et payer, qui ont soin de placer et de ranger les 
marchandises dans un vaisseau, et surtout celles qui sont en 
tonneaux, et qui sont en danger de coulage.” ® Thus, 
rummage comes from Bordeaux and contains a scrap of 
commercial history. It is also, as I shall show, some 
centuries older than the Oxford Dictionary’s first record. 

Gotgrave has ^‘arruner: to ranke, sort, range, dispose, put 
in order, set in array.” This form, with for -m-, also 
recorded by Oudin (1660), and occurring early in Old 
French in the general sense of arranging, is important, for it 
shows that the key-word we are seeking was spelt both rum 
and run. This word is archaic Fr. "Wum: the hole, or hold, 
of a ship” (Gotgrave). In Old French monosyllables 
ending in -m were commonly spelt with e.g. rien is Lat, 
rem, accusative of res^ a thing. Accordingly we find rum and 
run (also reum and reun) used indifferently in Old French for 
room, space, hold of ship. Falconer (1769) gives rum as 
equivalent to cde, the modern word for hold,® and Romme 
(1792) records it as an archaic word: ^‘Rum ou reum: ce mot 
peu usite est quelquefois employe pour exprimer la capacite 
interieure ou la contenance de la cale d’un vaisseau, c’est-a- 

^ Mod. poingon^ puncheon. 

2 This is partly taken from Cleirac’s Us et Coutumes de la Mcr 
(^634). 

® Also dormer mm a une roche: to give a good birth {sic) to, or keep aloof 
from, any rock, etc.” Much earlier (1415), in an “ordonnance” for 
traffic on the Seine, we read that “les bateliers garderont nm Fun envers 
Fautre,” i.e, will keep proper space between their boats. With these 
examples cf. the use of room, space, sea-room, in nautical English. 

189 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

dirCj I’espace qu’elle ofFre pour remplacement des mar- 
chandises dont on pent composer le chargement de ce bati- 
mcnt. Un vaisseau qui a une caie vaste est dit etre d’un 
grand reum.’’ 

It is clear that from this rum or run could be formed a verb 
arrumer or arruner, to adapt the cargo to the capacity of the 
hold (cf. arranger y from rang^ rank). The corresponding 
Spanish and Portuguese verb is arrumar. The original 
source is Teutonic, but whether it is Eng. room (Anglo-Sax. 
rum), Dutch ruim, Ger. raum (Old High Ger. rum), Old Norse 
rum (whence rum in Danish and Swedish), or Goth, rum, 
cannot be decided. Raum or schiffsraum is the usual modern 
German for hold, but it is not necessary to suppose that 
arrumer, arruner was originally limited to nautical use. The 
sea sense would easily - arise out of that of arrangement in 
general. 

Rummage, as we have seen, is first recorded by the Oxford 
Dictionary for 1^26, but copious records of rumagium, runa- 
gium in Med. Latin point to its having been a familiar word 
in Mid. English, e.g. “Ad duccndum dicta dolia usque 
navem et pro runagio dictorum doliorum” ^ (Earl of 
Derby’s Expedition, 1390-3). The medieval examples are 
all connected with casks. The earliest I have found is in 
some royal accounts of Edward II (c. 1 320) . U nfortunately 
I have mislaid the Anglo-Latin text, but the item deals with 
the transport of forty casks of wine from Lostwithiel to 
Fowey, and mentions (i) the “rollage” from the merchant’s 
cellar to the water-side, (2) the “towage” by water, (3) the 
“gyndage,”® i.e. hoisting on board, (4) the “rummage” 
{rumagium) in the hold. If “Latin” rumagium could be thus 
used, c. 1320, rummage must have been already a familiar 
word in nautical English. In fact, its use must go back to 
the beginnings of the wine-trade with Bordeaux. 

^ For bringing the said ca.sks to the ship and for the stowing of the said 
casks. 

* From Fr. guinder, to hoist; cf. guindas, windlass. 

190 



SALLET 


Sallet 

The general name for a helmet up to the beginning of the 
15th century was basnet, or bacinet, meaning a little basin. 
This was probably worn in battle by all ranks, e.g. the 
magnificent effigy of the Black Prince in Canterbury cathe- 
dral represents him in full armour, basnet on head^ his 
cumbrous tilting helmet being suspended above the tomb. 
In Tudor and Stuart times the usual types of helmet were 
t|:ie morion and the burgonet, the former of unknown origin, 
the latter deriving from Burgundy. These words were also 
vaguely used for helmet in general. Between these and the 
basnet reigned the salade or sallet, booked for 1440, on which 
Jack Cade puns execrably : 

Wherefore, on a brick wall have I climbed into this garden, to see 
if I can cat grass, or pick a sallet another while, which is not amiss 
to cool a man’s stomach this hot weather. And I think this word 
sallet was born to do me good, for, many a time, but for a sallet, my 
brain-pan had been cleft with a brown-bill. (2 Henry VI, iv, 10.) 

The immediate origin of the word is simple. It is Fr. 
salade, from It. celata or Sp. celada. It was the regular 
name, in the 15th century, for a plain steel cap worn in battle 
by all ranks. ‘‘The 14th and 1 5th century helmet was little 
worn in battle, being replaced in the former by the basnet, 
in the latter by the salade"’ (Skelton . There is reason to 
believe that both were sometimes worn under the great 
ornamental helmet. 

Skinner, in his Etymologicon Linguae Anglicanae (1671), 
misled by the ornamental helmets of his period, such as the 
“guilt engraven morion” of Spenser (Faerie Queene, vii, 7) 
or perhaps by Cicero’s mention of “galeae caelatae operc 
Corinthio,” i.e. helmets engraved with Corinthian work, 
derived salade from Lat. caelata, from caelare, to engrave, and 
this etymology has been repeated ever since (Oxford Dic- 
tionary and Webster) . Now the sallet was not engraved, nor 

^Joseph Skelton, 19th-century antiquarian engraver. 

191 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

can I believe that such ornamental head-gear was served 
out to the rank and file of the 15th century. The sallet, as 
can be seen by a visit to any collection of old armour, was 
simply the hasmt slightly elaborated; in fact, it closely 
resembled the “tin hat” of the modern German soldier. It 
was also, like the other words mentioned in this article, a 
general term for helmet. 

Robert Estienne, author of a Dictionarium Latino- 
Gallicum (1538), has cassis: ung heaulme, ung bonnet de 
fer, une salade, ung bassinet.” Cooper has cassis: an helmet^ 
a salet, a cap of steele.” There is no Italian verb celare, to 
engrave, but there is a very common celare, to conceal. It 
seems to me that It. ^‘celata: a celade . . a steele cap, an 
ambush, or way-laying” (Torriano), and Sp. ^'celada: an 
ambush, a sallet for the head” (Percyvali) are parallels to 
It. ^"secreta: a thinne steele cap, or close skull, worne under a 
hat” (Florio), and Old Fr. ^'segrette: an yron skull, or cap of 
fence” (Cotgrave). In the Paston Letters we occasionally 
read of bands of fighting-men equipped with “jakkes and 
sailets.” In French records of the same period the usual 
description is ‘ ‘Jacques et segrettes. ” Ergo the sallet belongs 
ultimately to Lat. celare^ to conceal. 

Sentry 

The Oxford Dictionary registers two separate words, viz. 
sentry (obsolete), contracted form of “sanctuary,” and sentry^ 
a sentinel. They are really identical. The etymology of 
this word has been obscured in the past (i) by futile 
attempts to connect it with the now synonymous sentinel^ 
(2) by the frequent earlier spelling centry^ (3) by complete 
neglect of its semantic history. Skinner (1671) has ^^centry 
pro sanctuary and ^'centryy v. sentineV^ The Oxford Dic- 
tionary suggests “perhaps a shortening or back-formation 
from cenirind, obsolete form of sentinel^' So also Webster. 
The two words have naturally been confused, but they arc 
quite unrelated. 

192 



SENTRY 


The earliest record I have found of sentry, sanctuary, is 
*‘He hath no way now to slyppe out of my hands, but to take 
sentrie in the hospital of Warwick” (Nashe, 1 590). The word 
is by no means obsolete as a local term. Many of our old 
country churches have adjacent ‘‘sentry-fields” (usually 
spelt centry-) and there are also ^^centry-gartks^^ and ^^centry 
gates, 

It is a recognized phenomenon that an abstract term con- 
nected with an action is also used of the place where that 
action is performed, then of the body of men performing it, 
and finally of the individual. Thus Lat. custodia is explained 
by Holyoak (1612) as “keeping, charge, guard, watch and 
ward, a prison, a watch-tower, a watchman.” The order 
of meanings of sentry is (i) sanctuary, (2) place of refuge, 
(3) body of men, (4) sentinel. Gotgrave has ^^garite: a 
place of refuge and of safe retyrall in a rowte, disaster, or 
danger; the recourse of such as are discomfited; [hence:] 
also, the dungeon ^ of a fortresse, whither the beleaguered . 
soldiers make their last retire and flight ; also, a sentrie, or 
little box for a sentinell, built on high.” Old Fr. garite, 
whence our garret, which also once meant a watch-tower, is 
now guerite, a sentry-box, and would probably have come to 
mean “sentry,” if French had not borrowed sentinelle from 
Italian. Garite is common in Old French for sanctuary, 
refuge, and “prendre la garite” is Old French for “to 
take sanctuary.” 

The abstract sense survives in to “keep sentry” : 

Here toils, and death, and death’s half-brother, sleep, 

Forms terrible to view, their centry keep. 

(Drydcn.) 

and the collective sense is still in Milton : 

What strength, what art can then 
Suffice, or what evasion bear him safe 
Through the strict scnteries and stations thick 
Of angels watching round? 

(Paradise Lost, ii, 410.) 

^ Not an underground cell, but the donjon or castle-keep. 


193 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

This reduction of the abstract or collective to the individual 
is why so many French military terms [recme, sentinelle^ 
vigie, and the Old French originals of spy and scout) are 
feminine. 

With Cotgrave’s ^'eschaugette {echaugeUe) : a sentrie, watch- 
tower, beacon,” we may compare vedette^ also feminine in 
French, now a cavalry sentry, from It. ^^vedetta: a watch- 
towre, a prying or peeping-hole” (Florio). 

Tenter-hooks 

“ ‘Mrs. Gorney,’ said Mr, Bumble, stooping over the mat- 
ron, ‘what is this, ma’am? Has anything happened, 

ma’am? Pray answer me, I’m on — on ’ Mr. Bumble, 

in his alarm, could not immediately think of the word 
‘tenter-hooks,’ so he said ‘broken bottles’ ” (Oliver Twist, 
ch. 27). Discreet inquiry reveals the fact that most people 
who speak of being “on tenter-hooks” follow Mr Bumble’s 
interpretation and associate the phrase with something 
spiky and a sitting posture. They regard the experience as 
akin to being “on thorns.” Byron erroneously associated 
tenter-hooks with angling: 

At present I am glad of a pretence 

To leave them ‘hovering, as the effect is fine, 

And keeps the atrocious reader in suspense; 

The surest way for ladies and for books, 

To bait their tender or their tenter hooks. 

(Don Juan, xiv, 97.) 

Being “on tenter-hooks” is really a parallel to being “on 
the rack.” Tenter is an old technical word for a stretching 
apparatus used to prevent cloth from warping or shrinking 
after being milled. Formerly the process was carried on 
out of doors. There are still in London three Tenter 
Streets, “aU associated with former fields or open spaces, 
where the cloth-workers had their tenters or frames for 
stretching cloth” (Miss G. B. Rawlings, The Streets of 
194 



TENTER-HOOKS 


London), The Oxford Dictionary traces tenter back to the 
14th century, and, curiously enough, the earliest quotation 
suggests the current figurative use: “Whoii the Jewes 
hedden thus nayled Grist on the cros as men doth cloth on a 
teyntur’’ (Hampole). Variant readings of the passage give 
streynour and rakkeJ- The latter word was at one time 
often used in the same sense by ciothworkers, though, in this 
case, the ‘‘torture” sense is rather the older in English. 

Tenter is obviously connected with Fr. tendre^ to stretch, 
but the Oxford Dictionary objects that there is no record in 
Old French or Anglo-French of a noun tentour, stretcher, 
while Fr. tenture means the act, or result, of stretching, not 
the agent. The difficulty may be solved by considering a 
sense of tenter which the Dictionary has failed to record. 
Some years ago, looking over a dismantled manor-house, I 
noticed rows of hooks projecting from the bare walls just 
below the ceiling. On inquiry I was told that they were 
the tenter-hooks on which the tapestry was formerly strained. 
The Accounts of the York Merchant Adventurers include, 
for 1490, the item, “Pro le tenterhukes, pro le hangynges, 
et pro le candeles in dictam capellam,” which is conclusive 
as to this use of the word, and points to derivation from Fr. 
^Henture: the hanging of, or a suit of hangings,^ for a 
chamber” (Gotgrave). See abo The Antiquary, Gh. 10. 

Moreover, the earliest examples given by the Oxford 
Dictionary in the “clothworker” sense obviously apply to 
tapestry. The first is an entry of 200 tentourhokes^ recorded 
in the Wardrobe Accounts of Edward IV. Even if the 
King did cloth-stretching as a side-line, he could hardly 
have needed so many tenter-hooks at one purchase. The 
preceding item is “500 tapethokes,” which were certainly 

^ Probably of Dutch origin; cf. Dutch rekkm, to stretch. 

® Paper “hangings” began to be substituted for tapestry at the end of 
the 1 7th century. We still describe the man who sticks them on as a 
“paper-hanger” : “I have heard the fame of paper-hangings, and had 
some thought of sending for a suit” (Lady Mary Montagu, 1 749). 

195 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 


tapestry hooks^ and this follows '‘Grochettes: of the moost 
assize, C; of the myddell assize, GCG; of the leest assize, 
DCG/’ Evidently hooks of various kinds were in great 
request in His Majesty’s household. I suspect that they were 
all connected with the purchase, noted in the same sum- 
mary for the year, of arras to the extent of nearly 200 Flem- 
ish ells ‘‘of the story of Parys and Eleyn.” 

When distinguished visitors were accommodated at the 
Gold Harbour,^ it was usual to send hangings to that estab- 
lishment. In 1480 a vast number of tapet-hokes, tentour- 
kokes and crochettes of various “assizes” were sent “to the 
Goldharber ayenst the commyng thider of my lady Duch- 
esse of Bourgoine for the apparailyng of the logeing there.” 

The second example in the Oxford Dictionary, “For 
tayntyr-hokes and ffor wachyng of the sepulture, xii d.” 
(Records of St. Mary at Hill, 1492-3), points to the use of 
hangings in connection with funeral ceremonies or com- 
memorations. Littre tells us, “Ce mot {tenture) d^signe le 
plus souvent les pieces d’etoffe de deuil qui sont tendues, 
lors d’un convoi ou d’un service, dans rint^rieur et a Fex- 
t6rieur de Teglise ainsi qu’a la maison mortuaire.” Further 


^ This name is very frequently, and very unnecessarily, discussed. 
Its odgin is quite well known, and it means what it api>ears to mean, 
viz. a place supplying shelter and nothing else. Miss Rawlings, in The 
Streets of London, very aptly compares the Indian “dak” bungalows for 
travellers. There are about seventy Coldharbours existing or recorded 
on our old roads, and probably as many Caldecotes. Harbour, refuge, 
shelter, is Anglo-Sax. here-beorg, army shelter, which, though not re- 
corded, is certified by Old High Ger. heriberga (now herberge) and Old 
Norse herbergi (whence Dan. herberge). The Teutonic word passed into 
the Romance languages, giving Old Fr. herberge (whence modern hiberger, 
to shelter, harbour), It. albergo, Prov. alberga (whence Fr. auberge), Sp. 
albergue. The Cold Harbour alluded to above was a mansion in Thames 
Street, which, at this time, was the property of the Grown and was made 
habitable when guests were put up there. Among the alternative 
“etymologies” suggested is Fr. col d^arbres, whatever that may mean. 
What this “neck o* the woods” was doing in Thames Street is not 
explained. 

196 



TRET 


research would probably show that the tapestry sense of 
tenter preceded the cloth-stretching sense in English.^ 

The form is interesting. Fr. -ure regularly became -er in 
English. Thus friture gave friiier, batiure gave batter 
(pudding), hot dure gave border, and the archaic tester, canopy 
over a bed, is Anglo-Fr. testure, from Old Fr. teste, head: “ij 
couvrelitz, ove (= with) ij testures de double worstede’* 
(Will of Alice de Nerford, 1394). An artificial spelling has 
altered the pronunciation of most of the -ure words, but, 
though it is considered vastly diverting to represent unedu- 
cated speech by the spelling Jigger, that is how the unpe- 
dantic pronounce Jigure. In the i8th century all educated 
people pronounced words ending in »ure in the same 
way as Mrs. Gamp, when she spoke of the ‘‘torters of the 
Imposition’’; 

Farewell, ungrateful traitor. 

Farewell, my perjured swain; 

Let never injured creature 
Believe a man again. 

(Drydcn.) 


Tret 


Small boys who started school about the time of the 
Franco-Prussian War acquired some items of knowledge 
no longer considered of vital importance, such as the differ- 
ence in length of an English, a French, and a Flemish elL 
There was also some vague mention, without explanation, 
of ‘'tare and tret.” These arc old names for certain allow- 
ances made to the buyer. Tare is a deduction from the 
gross weight so as to allow for what is represented by the 
packing material or the vehicle employed. It is a French 
word, explained by Gotgrave as “losse, diminution, decay, 
impairement, want, or waste in merchandise.” The French 


^ I should guess that hangings were used in England before the Flem- 
ish cloth-workers introduced their improved methods of cloth making, 
and that the weavers simply took over tenter-hooks from the tapestry 
experts. 


J97 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

word is from Italian or Spanish and is ultimately of Arabic 
origin. Tret is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “an 
allowance of 4 pounds in 104 pounds on goods sold by 
weight/’ with the added information, “origin and history 
obscure.” Phillips defines it as “a certain allowance that is 
made by merchants, before a commodity is garbled from its 
refuse,” garble being used in its original sense of sifting or 
selecting. 

As long ago as 1909 I pointed out in a paper read to the 
Philological Society that the origin of tret is quite clear. It 
is the Anglo-French form of Fr. trait, pull, past participle of 
traire, which now means only to milk, but, being from Lat, 
irahere, meant in Old French to puli or draw, a sense later 
taken over by iirer. Trait has the special meaning of “turn 
of the scale.” Furetiere (1727) has "Hrait, en termes de 
mechaniquc, est le poids ou la force mouvantc qui emporte 
l’6quiiibre. Un poids en equilibre ne trebuche point, si on 
n’y ajoute quelquc chose pour le trait. Le frottement des 
parties qui se fait dans les machines demande une augmen- 
tation de force pour le trait. Les petits poids ne reviennent 
pas aux grands k cause du trait.” In other words, the 
buyer received the extra amount which would have re- 
sulted from the “turns of the scale” if the goods had been 
weighed in smaller quantities. This etymology is given in 
Webster. The word is booked for 1500. In Mid. English 
draught or draft, from draw, was used in the same sense. 

Trounce 

The verb to trounce is recorded from the i6th century. 
The Oxford Dictionary suggests no etymology, of course 
rejecting the suggestion that it is Old Fr. tronchier, to cut 
(Lat. truncare), which is contrary to sound and sense. Skeat 
defines it as “to beat with a truncheon,” and derives it from 
Old Fr, irons, a truncheon. This is begging the question, 
for trounce does not mean to “beat with a truncheon,” nor 
198 



TROUNCE 


does Old Fr. irons mean a “truncheon.’’ Skeat was perhaps 
misled by the fact that Old Fr. irons is explained in diction- 
aries as troufon, i.e. piece, fragment, which he apparently 
took to mean truncheon in the modern sense of the English 
word. Trongon is a diminutive of tronc, a trunk, and is ex- 
plained by Gotgrave as “a truncheon, or little trunke; a 
thicke slice, luncheon,^ or peece cut off.” It is often used in 
Old French and Mid. English of the broken shaft of a lance. 
The resultant sense of short, thick cudgel or marshal’s baton 
is peculiar to English and quite unknown in Old or Modern 
French, The verb truncheon, to beat, is first recorded in 
Shakespeare (22 Henry IV, ii, 4), its earlier senses being to 
break a spear to pieces and to carve an eel! The shorter 
irons also meant in Old French simply stump, fragment, and 
had no connection with beating. 

The sense-history of trounce illustrates a rather unusual 
phenomenon. As a rule it is the strong word, used from 
instinctive exaggeration, which gradually weakens in 
meaning. We can thrash our opponent at tennis, chaw 
him up at chess, or wipe the floor with him at billiards. In 
trounce we have the process reversed. Its original meaning 
in English was to terrify, discomfit, etc., the word later 
developing the idea of physical ill-treatment.^ 

This is quite evident from the well-known and earliest 
example, from the Bible of 1551 : ‘‘But the Lord trounsed 
[Authorized Version, discounted] Sisara and all his cha- 
rettes, and all hys hoste with the edge of ye swerde before 
Barak” (Judges iv, 15). Here trounsed represents the per- 
terruit, i.e. terrified, of the Vulgate, and the synonymous 
i$€crT 7 }cr€ of the Septuagint. The renderings in the two 
Wyclifitc versions are feeryde (= frightened) and made 
afeerd. The current meaning, to thrash, is not clearly evid- 
enced till the 17th century. Another sense, to punish by 

^ The original sense of luncheon was “chunk*” 

® The process is unusual, but is also illustrated by chastise and castigate, 
which mean etymologically to purify, make chaste. 


199 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

legal actioHj still survives in the Somerset dialect, and this is 
the only meaning of the word that I can discover in the 
early Latin dictionaries, e.g. Littleton (1677) has ^Hroume: 
male mulctare,” i.e. to fine heavily. It is noteworthy that 
in several counties, according to the English Dialect Dic- 
tionary, irounce still altogether lacks the belabouring sense 
and means simply to discomfit. 

T rounse or trourue seems to be a secondary form of trance. 
From Lat. transire, to pass over, French formed transir, to 
die. The corresponding noun transe, whence our irance^ 
(with a meaning unknown in French), acquired, via the 
sense of throes of death {les tr arises de la mart), that of 
‘^extreame feare, dread; anxietie, or perplexitie of mind” 
(Cotgrave). This is the original meaning of the Mid. 
Eng. traunse, though the modern sense also appears in 
Chaucer. The Oxford Dictionary quotes from Gower: 

This chcries herte is in a traunce, 

As he which drad him of vcngcncc, 

(Confessio Amands, iii, 3121.) 

I conjecture that traunse, fear, gave birth to a verb, mean- 
ing to frighten, and that this later became trounce. It may 
be asked whether such a change of vowel is possible. The 
answer is in the affirmative. There is another word trance 
(Mid. Eng. traunce), of unknown origin, meaning some- 
thing like to prance, tramp, “traipse.” It is used by Chau- 
cer and Gower. It also occurs in the i6th century in the 
form trounce, a word employed by Scott (Redgauntlet, 
ch. ii) and other northern writers. Both traunce and 
irounce, according to the English Dialect Dictionary, arc still 
in general use in the north in the “traipsing,” trudging 
sense. If this traunce could become trounce, our word could 
do the same.^ The only missing link in the argument is a 
record of Mid. Eng. traunse, to terrify. 

^ There is also the parallel of the obsolete jounce ot jounce, to make 
prance, etc., the former of which is used by Shakespeare (Richard II, 

V, 5)* 


200 



TRUDGE 


Trudge 

Mental association with tramp and tread has altogether 
changed the meaning of this word and consequently ob- 
scured its etymology. It now means, according to the 
0:dbrd Dictionary, ‘'to walk laboriously, wearily, or with- 
out spirit, but steadily and persistently.’’ This idea first 
appears in Johnson, who has “to travel laboriously, to jog 
on, to march heavily on.” But Bailey, twenty years earlier, 
has “to trot up and down; to toil and moil about a business.” 
The second part of this definition is partly due to association 
with drudge. Tusser rhymes the two words more than once : 

Good husband, he trudgeth, to bring in the gaines. 

Good huswife, she drudgeth, refusing no paines. 

This is given by the Oxford Dictionary as an example of 
walking laboriously. It really refers to the busy activity 
of the master of the farm. 

The first Latin dictionary in which I have found the word 
(Littleton, 1735) explains trudge by festinare^ cursitare^ which 
are a long way removed in sense from the current use. 
These Latin verbs are explained by Cooper as “to hie 
apace, to make speede,” and “to runne up and downe, to 
runne often.” The earliest Oxford Dictionary record 
(1547) for the verb, “If the belles rynge in any place for an 
obit, than (= then) oure gentyl gallants trudge apace,” 
refers obviously to a hasty departure. In fact, the essential 
16th-century meaning was not to walk or plod, but to start 
off. That the word was a colloquialism is shown by its 
absence from the earlier Latin-English dictionaries and 
from the Authorized Version. 

Shakespeare’s use of trudge leaves no doubt as to its 16th- 
century meaning. When Mistress Ford was making her 
arrangements for the removal of FalstafF in the buck- 
basket, she bade her servants, “Take this basket on your 
shoulders; that done, trudge (i.e, start off) with it in all 
haste” (Merry Wives, iii, 3). It is often used with apace^ in 

201 


o 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

the phrase must be trudging/’ and in the imperative 
trudge^ i.e. be off with you. It is not till about the middle 
of the 1 8 th century that the sense of laborious progress is 
clearly evidenced. In fact, trudge and pack, both used of 
hurried departure, are practically synonymous in the i6th 
and 1 7th centuries. The latter is very common in Shake- 
speare. I wll quote only two examples : 

Hence I pack! there’s gold; you came for gold, ye slaves. 

(Timon, v, i.) 

Ere a fortnight make me elder, 
ni send some packing that yet think not on it. 

(Richard III, iii, 2.) 

The two synonymous words are often coupled : 

None other speech prevayldc 

But “packe” and “trudge,” al Icysure was to (= too) long. 

(Gascoigne, Fruites of Warre.) 

Trudge is derived, in my opinion, from Fr. trousser, to 
pack, and acquired its meaning ^ in the same way as pack, 
to be off. Trousser gave regularly truss, a common word in 
Mid. English, explained in Stratmann and Bradley’s Middle 
English Dictionary as ‘‘pack up; be off; go away.” This 
survived till the i6th century: 

As for ail other, ict them trusse and packc. 

(Skelton, Magnyficcncc, 1 . 1 774)*- 

disappearing, in this special sense, as the synonymous trudge 
came into use. With Skelton’s “truss and pack” cf. 
Shakespeare’s “trudge and pack” : 

If every one knows us, and wc know none, 

’Tis time, I think, to trudge, pack, and be gone, 

(Comedy of Errors, iii, 2.) 

For the apparent phonetic irregularity involved in the 
change of truss to trudge^ we have the invaluable evidence of 
Mrs. Gamp. It will be remembered that that lady, when 
she saw the Antwerp packet, remarked, confounding the 

1 Cf. the familiar Fr. trousser bagage, to pack up and go. 


202 



TRUDGE 


prophet with the whale, “And I wish it was in Jonadge’s 
belly I do,” On the occasion when she “propoged” a toast, 
and her long friendship with Betsey Prig came to an end, she 
addressed that lady as “bage creetur” and animadverted 
on her “bragian” words. In fact, she regularly substituted 
a palatal for a sibilant. There is no reason to suppose that 
Mrs. Gamp's language was peculiar to her. It was rather a 
survival, noted by one of the most observant men who ever 
lived, of a pronunciation which must have had a consider- 
able vogue in earlier centuries.^ It appears also in grudge^ 
from Old Fr. groucier^ The nautical forge, as in to “forge 
ahead," is a still better parallel. It is a corruption, re- 
corded as early as i6i i, of force. The identity of force and 
forge is made quite clear by the evidence of the two best 
nautical dictionaries of the i8th century: “ To forge over (cor- 
rompu de to force) : passer cn faisant force de voiles sur un 
banc de sable, ou k travers les glaces; on dit aussi cn 
frangois forcer^^ (Lescallier) ; ^franchir un banc: to force over a 
bank" (ibid.) ; ^franchir une roche: to pass over, or forge off 
from, a rock" (Falconer). Nautical speech has preserved 
this corruption, just as in wear (for veer) it has kept the soli- 
tary surviving example of the once widespread confusion 
between initial o- and w-, 

^ I have ventured to suggest elsewhere (Gornhill, May 1922) that 
Mrs. Gamp spoke English like an early Georgian duchess. 

* Cf. the American grouch. It is, unfortunately, impossible to 
link the military grouse with Old Fr. groucier, as there is a gap of centuries 
between them. 


203 



Chapter III 

SHAKESPEARE AND WAGSTAFFE 

In no region of word-lore lias the amateur philologist done 
more deadly work than in the history of our surnames. 
Bardsley, in his valuable Dictionary of English and Welsh 
Surnames, says of Shakespeare, “It is impossible to retail all 
the nonsense that has been written about this name. Silly 
guessing has run riot on the subject. Never a name in 
English nomenclature so simple or so certain in its origin. 
It is simply what it looks — shake-spear.^'' To this it may be 
added that no European philologist of any reputation 
would dissent from this opinion. This form of nickname, 
verb and object (cf. stopgap, daredevil, makeshift, saw- 
bones, killjoy, etc.), is represented by hundreds of surnames 
in the chief European languages, and by thousands in medi- 
eval records, the large majority of them having proved too 
crude or too cumbersome to survive in the surnominal 
struggle for life, e.g. our medieval Gullebulluc (kill-bullock) 
has disappeared, though the French Tubeuf still flourishes 
and is appropriately represented by a butcher in the Bottin ^ 
for 1907. Early examples are the Norman Taillefer,® now 
Teifer, and Taillebois, now Tallboys. English are Doo- 
little, Turnbull, Lovejoy, Makepeace, Breakspear, Drink- 
water. These and hundreds of others are plentifully attes- 
ted in the medieval Rolls, from the 12th century onward. 
They are never preceded by de or atte^ so cannot be local; 
they are never found as first names, so cannot be “corrup- 
tions” of baptismal names; they are never preceded by le 
or the^ so cannot be occupational. Therefore, to anyone 

^ The Paris Directory, published by Didot Bottin. 

® Cf. the Italian name Tagliafcrro. 


204 



SHAKESPEARE AND WAGSTAFFE 

who understands what is meant by philological evidences 
they are nicknames, easily paralleled in other languages; 
e.g. Drinkwater, perhaps the commonest English surname 
of this type, has as equivalents French Boilcau, Italian 
Bevilacqua, German Trinkwasser. 

The etymology of Shakespeare has long been for philolo- 
gists an affaire jugee^ but now comes along a theorist, whom, 
in accordance with the best modern legal precedent, wx will 
call Mr. X, to tell us that we are all wrong, and that the 
existence of the corresponding German Schiittespeer and 
the Italian Crollalanza means nothing. Briefly put, Mr. 
X’s view seems to be that the English name Saxby may 
have been corrupted in French to Saquespee, and then in 
English to Shakespeare. The latter may also be of local 
origin, or be derived from an Anglo-Saxon personal name 
compounded from seax, knife, ‘‘or the even more common 
prototheme Sige.” Finally “it seems not imlikely that the 
name Shakespeare is derived from several distinct sources.” 
Similar theories are propounded for the equally obvious 
Shakeshaft and Shaddock. 

All this is, of course, etymological moonshine. It may be 
conceded that Shakespeare could have occasionally inter- 
changed with Saquespee, the names having enough super- 
ficial likeness of sound and sense to be confused at 
a period when the surname was a very loose adjunct 
of the font-name. We find, for instance, the compromise 
Sakespere, and even Drawspere and Drawespe. Both 
Saquespee and the synonymous Draweswerd ^ were well- 
established medieval names, the former being found as 
early as the 12th century, e.g. Jordan Sacheespee is in the 
Pipe Roils. It survives in French Sacquepe (Bottin, 1907), 
but in England has been absorbed by Saxby. Mr. X tells 
us that “Sakespec is approximately French.” Rather more 

^ During the bilingual period, i.e. c. 1066-1400, French surnames run 
parallel with native surnames in England^ It is quite possible that the 
same name was known both as Saquespee and Draweswerd. 


205 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

than “^approximately,” since sachier (Norman saquier^ sakier) 
Vespee is as common in Old French romance as to “draw the 
sword” is in medieval English. 

The existing Shake- names are Shacklock, Shakelance 
(very rare), Shakeshaft or Shackshaft, Shakespeare. 
Apparently obsolete are Shakesheath, ShakestafF. There 
are one or two more which I omit pudoris causa. Now, if we 
look up the transitive verb shake in the Oxford Dictionary, 
we find as earliest senses to brandish, to agitate (some part 
of the body), to wag, flap, etc. And the three oldest 
quotations are just what we want ! 

Heo scaeken on heorc honden speren swithe strongc. 

(Layamon, 1 . 26481.) 

Schaftes thai gun schake. (Sir Tristram, 1 . 885.) 

Thei schulen schakc lockis, as the whclpis of liouns.^ 

(Wyclif; Jeremiah ii. 38.) 

From which it may be reasonably inferred that the “shak- 
ing” of spears, shafts and locks was not a practice unknown 
to the Middle Ages ! The gesture or mannerism which gave 
his surname to Hamo Shakeloc, who is registered in the 
Hundred Rolls of 1273, seems to have specially impressed 
our observant ancestors, for we find also John Werpeloc in 
the Leicester Borough Records and William Wrytheloc in 
the Register of Malmesbury Abbey, both verbs meaning 
something like to twist. 

With Breakspear one may compare the once common 
Briselance, still found in France. It is quite obvious to 
normal intelligence that Shakespeare belongs to the same 
type as Taille-fer, the still more formidable Mange-fer, the 
existing German name Hauenschild (swash-buckler) and 
its Middle English parallel Crakesheld (crack-shield). We 
may regret that our ancestors were so fond of shaking, 
breaking and cracking, but we cannot help it. 

The early Shakespeares earned their name in the same 
way as the early Benbows, who, in the Middle Ages, bore 

^ Vulgate, ‘‘Excutient comas quasi catuH leonum,” 


206 



SHAKESPEARE AND WAGSTAFFE 

the nickname ‘"bende-bowe.” Nor had Robert Greene any 
illusions as to the ^^shake'’ of ShakespearCj when he spitefully 
described him (in A Groat’s Worth of Wit, c. 1590) as ''in his 
owne conceit the only shake-scene in a countrie.” Finally, 
Mr. X himself supplies us with most valuable evidence in the 
surname of one Fewterspere, whom he has discovered in the 
Cheshire Plea Rolls for 1362. If we look up fewter in the 
Oxford Dictionary, we find the definition ‘^to put (a spear) 
into the ‘fewter,’ or rest,” with four quotations, in all of 
which the word is naturally associated with spear, the last 
date being from Spenser: 

Which being yeelded, he his threatfuii speare 
Gan fewter, and against her fiercely ran. 

(Faerie Quecne, IV, vi, 10.) 

If a medieval Englishman could be named from “fewter- 
ing” his spear, one imagines he might also be named from 
the more ostentatious gesture of “shaking” it. 

With the Shake- names go the Wag- names, of which the 
commonest is Wagstaffe, which looks like a kind of Sancho 
Panza counterpart of the quixotic Shakespeare. But wag 
had no ludicrous suggestion in Middle English. It was 
equivalent to shake, e.g. Waiter Waggespere is in the Lanca- 
sidre Assize Rolls: see also Matthew xxvii. 39. Its oldest 
transitive sense was identical with that of shake, i.e. to 
brandish (a weapon) defiantly. It is used with weapon in 
Havelok (c. 1300), the Oxford Dictionary’s next quotation 
being from Coverdale (1535) : 

Be not afrayde for the Kinge of the Assirians— he shal wagg[J.F. lift 
up] his staff at thee, but, etc. (Isaiah x. 24.) 

Mr. X tells us that Wagstaffe “might well be a personal 
name and it also has the appearance of being local,” but I 
imagine that it would be hard to put forward similar con- 
jectures for the synonymous Reginald Waggebastun, who is 
registered in the Close Rolls for 1 227-3 1 . Less common are 
Waghorn, also recorded early, and Wagspear, which seems 

207 



WORDS ANCIENT AND MODERN 

to be obsolete. I am not sure whether Wagtail still existSj 
though a Cambridge undergraduate of about half a century 
ago, who rejoiced in the picturesque surname of Shuffle- 
bottom, was occasionally addressed by this euphemistic 
equivalent. The Oxford Dictionary’s records of wagtail are 
for 1510 (the bird), 1592 (an improper lady), 1605 (a con- 
temptuous name applied by Kent to GoneriPs steward, in 
King Lear, ii, 2) ; but Wagtail was already a surname in the 
1 2th century. 

To conclude, the name Shakespeare is derived from the 
habit or gesture of shaking a spear and the name Wagstaffe 
from wagging a staff. Anyone who wishes to establish their 
local origin must furnish us with medieval examples of 
William atte Schakespere or John de Waggestsef. If they 
are to be regarded as personal names, we must ask for docu- 
mentary records of Schakesperius fil. Gulielmi or of Wagge- 
stasffius carpentarius. Most convincing of ail would be 
such an entry as Schakesperius fil. W’aggestaeffii ! 

The foregoing paragraphs may seem rather a departure 
from the smiling serenity with which one should regard the 
antics of the amateur etymologist. It is obvious that the 
bottom of the world need not drop out because a few guile- 
less souls are induced to believe nonsense about surnames; 
but, all the same, one feels that those in quest of linguistic 
information have a right to expect that printed statements 
should approximate to the present state of philological 
knowledge. It is also to be regretted that etymological 
corpses which were decently buried half a century ago 
should be disinterred, and their resurrection amiably ac- 
claimed by a chorus of “irresponsible, indolent reviewers.’’ 


208 



ache, 13 
acre, 116, «. i 
agnostic, i 
akimbo, 123 
alene (Fr.), 127 
alp (Ger.), 71 
Amabel, 169 
Andrew, merry, 166 
anlace, 125 
answer, 106 
anthem, 13 
ape, 160, n. i, 167 
Apps, 3, n, 3 
arbeit (Ger.), 92 
archer, 6, n. 
Arcturus, 63 
arsenal, 68 
artful, 145 
artillery, 45 
aspen-leaf, 2 
astonish, 102 
astony, 102 
astound, 102 
awl, 127 

bagpipe, 83 
bandit, 40 
bandook, 45 
bantam, 160 
barbadose, 64 
basnet, 191 
battels, 3 
batten, 4 
batter, 197 
battlings, 4 
bcaufet, 5 
bedridden, 71 
beefeater, 5 
beetle, 144 
bell-wether, 187 
Benbow, 207 
Black and Tan, 12 
blackguard, 12 
blackmail, 9 
Black Prince, 58 


INDEX 

1 blood-boltercd, 1 7 1 , «. 

I bloody, 129 
! blouse, 60 
bluebottle, 1 3 
Bluecoat School, 12, n. 

; blue-gown, 12, n., 96 
I bluejacket, 59, n. 2 
blue-stocking, 1 1 
bluff, 58 
bolshevist, 97 
bond, 55 
bonfire, 13 

bonhomme (Fr.), 57, n. 
boon companion, 33 
boor, 21 
bootikins, 133 
border, 197 
bosh, 91 

bourgeois, 14, 78, 80, 132 

brand-new, 99 

Breakspear, 206 

bream, 31 

bruin, 168 

buff, 168 

buffet, 143 

bulkhead, 23, n. 2 

bullet, 45, n. 

bumpkin, 22 

bundook, 45 

burgee, 132 

burgonet, 191 

buskin, 133 

butterfly, 39 

cabal, 5, 129 
cadet (Russ.), 99 
can, 125 
carfax, 17 

I carrefour (Fr.), 17 
cauchemar (Fr.), 72 
caulk, 134 

cegetistc (Fr.), g8, n. 2 
Cesarewitch, 63 
chaffer, 20, 164, n. i 
j chap, chapman, 20 


209 



INDEX 


Charlemagne, 177, n. 
Charles, 63 
Charles’s wain, 64 
chatelaine (Fr.), 56, n. 2 
chawbacon, 22 
cheap, 20 
cheesemonger, 18 
Chepstow, 20 
chevauX“de-frisc, 104 
Chipping, 20 
chop, 20 
churl, 21 
clod, 21 
clodhopper, 20 
cloison (Fr.), 23, n. 1 
close-quarters, 22 
clout, 140, 143, 169 
clown, 21 
cocksure, 23 
codlin, 136 
Goldharbour, 196 
companion, 32 
complot, 183 
Confessor, 58 
constable, 49, n. 3 
conte (Fr.), 100 
cordwainer, 134 
costive, 147 
couloir (Fr.), 174 
country-dance, 36 
cozen, 137 
crafty, 145 
cratch, 141 
crosspatch, 139 
cross-roads, 17 
cuff, 142 
cunning, 145 
curtain, 173, n. 
cutlass, 127 
cutter, 162 
czar, 63 


daffodil, 143 
dapple-grey, 143 
decry, 147 
defile, 147 
demagogue, 26 
democracy, 25 
demur, 146 
demure, 145 
descry, 147 

210 


I dicker, 27 
I digitalis, 36 
i dinghy, 1 62 
i dirge, 159, «. 5 
I discomfort, 28 
; disease, 28 
i dishevelled, 148, n, i 
I dock, 30 
j DooHtdc, 204 
j drat, 184 

dreadnought, 70 
I dree, 1 1 3 

Drinkwatcr, 204 


Ecclcs, 1 81 
n. I 

<§gUse (Fr.), 181 
egregious, 145 
elend (Ger.), 40, 51 
elf-lock, 72 
Elsass, 40 
emperor, 62 
Erlking, 47, n, 3 
erstaunen (Ger.), ro2 
f^tonner (Fr.), 102 
explore, 148 


Falk and Torp, ii, /?. 
fathead, 159, n. 6 
fellow, 31 
felon, 149 
fcmsccd, 24, n. 
feu follet (Fr.), 56 
fewter, 207 
fife, 83, 168 
fights, 23 
fire-new, 99 
fisticuff, 142 
flail, i8i 
fiaircr (Fr.), 81 
flintc (Ger.), 180 
foil, 130 
folklore, 33 
forge, 203 
forsooth, 1 1 7 
foxglove, 35 
Frank, 157 
frankpledge, 166 
freemason, 175, n. 
fritter, 197 
fuchsia, 36 
fusil (Fr.), r8o 



INDEX 


gallipot, 151 
g&rgon (Fr.), 41 
garreteer, 38 
Gathergood, 154 
gazette, 37 
gazetteer, 37 
gee-whiz, 25, n. 2 
gemini, 25, n. 2 
genteel, 102 
Gentile, 102 
gentle, 102 
George, 63 
glebe, 184 
gnostic, 2 
Golightiy, 154 
gonfalon, 174 
good, 154, n. 
goody, 57 
goss. 39 
gossamer, 38 
gossoon, 40 
grass- widow, 41 
graving dock, 3 1 
grig, 166 
grogram, 18 1 
grouch, 203, n. 2 
grouse, 203, n. 2 
grudge, 203 
gu^rite (Fr.), 193 
guinea-pig, 160 
gtin, 44 
gyp, 62 
gypon, 61 

hail, 109 
hale, no 
hallow, 1 1 1 
Hapgood, 154 
haphazard, 153 
happy, 153, n. 2 
harlequin, 46 
heal, no 
health, no 
Heiland (Ger.), no 
heimweh (Ger.), 51 
henchman, 48 
Hengest, 73 
Heme the Hunter, 47 
high-flown, 154 
history, 100 
hobgoblin, 158 
Hoteon-Jobson, 42, n. 2 


’ holy, no 
' homesick, 50 
; honeymoon, 33 
I hornpipe, 83 
; Horsa, 73 
h^rsc-coper, 18, n. 2 
horse-courser, 18 
Hotspur, 58 
howitzer, 45 
howlet, 156 
husbandman, 54 
hussy, 56 

ignis fatuus, 56 
ill, 29 

inchmeal, 107 
infamous, 29 
inroad, 87 
ironmonger, 19 
Ironside, 57 

jackanapes, 102 
jack o* lantern, 46 
Jacques Bonhomme, 57, «. 
jaunty, 102 
jersey, 60 
jibbib (Arab.), 61 
jockey, 139 

johannisfeuer (Ger.), 1 1 
jolly-boat, 161 
jumper, 60 
junker (Ger.), 120 
jupe, jupon (Fr.), 6i 

Kaiser (Ger.), 62 

kaufmann (Ger.), 20 

kelpie, 73 

kestrel, 164 

kid, 66 

kidnap, 64 

kimbo, 124 

kinchin, 66, n. i 

kingmaker, 58 

klotz (Ger.), 21, «. i 

Kluge, 41, 53, 78, n. I 

knickers, 62 

knowing, 145 

koroF (Russ.), 63 

labour, io8 
Lackland, 57 
lady, 8 


211 



INDEX 


laird, 8 

landsknecht (Ger.), i86, n, 3 
launch, 162 
learned, 35 
leddy, 8 

legerdemain, 165 
Leo Hunter, Mrs., 67 
(Fr.), 126, n. 3 
lewd, 35 
limb-meal, 107 
lime, 135 
linden, 3 
lion-hunter, 66 
lobster, 59 
Longshanks, 57 

lord, 8 

lore, 35 

loupgarou (Fr.), 1 1 ^ 
Lovejoy, 204 
lubber, 7, n. 2 
Lyndhurst, 3 

Mab, Queen, 71, 169 
Mabel, 169 
Macmanus, 64 
mag, 37 
magazine, 67 
Magnus, 66 
mahuta (Afr.), 27, n. 
mail, 10 
majolica, 153 
Makepeace, 204 
malkin, 169 
Mall, 77 
Manson, 64 
mare, 71 
market, 18 
marshal, 49, n. 3 
mascot, 91 
massmonger, 19 
match, 1 41 
maw- worm, r 70 
menial, 47, n, 2 
menshevist, 97 
merchant, 18 
merry Andrew, 166 
merry grig, 166 
metier (Fr.), 175 
midriff, 107, n, i 
midshipman, 107, n. i 
midwife, 107 
miscreant, i, w. 

212 


I mistery, 1 75 
1 mob-cap, 1 69 
j mobled, 1 69 
I mobocracy, 26 
i -monger, i g 
1 monitor, 69 
I monk, 1 68 
I monkey, 167 
\ Mons Meg, 45 
I mop, 1 68 
moppet, 170 
mosstrooper, 21, n, 2, 87 
Muller, Max, 5 
mulligrubs, 170 
mystery, 175 

Nash, 128, n. 2 
neighbour, 20 
nep (Russ.), 98, n. 2 
newsmonger, 19 
newt, 128, n. 2 
nice, 145 
nightmare, 20 
nook-shotten, 170, n. 
nostalgic, 52 

oaf, 72, «. 
obsequious, 145 
officious, 145 
Old Harry, Nick, 46 
oriel, 1 71 

packstaff, 81 
pagan, 73 
pajock, 140 
Pall-Mall, 76 
palmistry, 174 
pantaloons, 63, n. i 
parbleu (Fr.), 25 
parsimonious, 145 
patch, 139 

patchcock, patchock, 140 

pay, 135 

Payn-e, 73 
pea-jacket, 153 
pearmain, 176 
pekin (Fr.), 75 
pellet, 45, n. 
pelote (Fr.), 184 
Pennefather, 159, n. 6 
people, 33 
peregrine, 181 



INDEX 


petronel, 17B 
petticoat, 60 
pfcife (Ger. !, 183 
philistine, 78 
Phip, 157 
pibroch, 83 
pickthank, 19 
piecemeal, 107 
pikestaff, 80 
pilgrim, 180 
pipe, 82 
piping hot, 82 
Pipe Rolls, 84 
plat, 182 
platform, 184 
platoon, 184 
pleurer (Fr.), 548, n. 2 
plot, 182 
plush, 185, n. 
pobel (Ger.), 33, n, 
pompous, 145 
poppet, 170 
powder-beef, 7 
prepense, 147 
proletariat, 16 
punch, Sufelk, 86 
puncheon, 127 
Punchinello, 85 

Queen Mab, 70, 169 

rack, 195, n. 
ragamuffin, 89, n. i 
ragman-roll, 88 
raid, 86 
rap, 37 

rear-mouse, 105 
rebuff, 143 
recke (Ger.), 40 
recreant, 93 
redcoat, 59 
redeless, 58 
remainder, 177, 2 

renard (Fr.), 167 
renegade,. 94 
review, 68 
Rideout, 154 
rigmarole, 88 
ringleader, 185 
road, 17, 87 
roar, 105 
roarer, 106 


robot, 91 

rossignoi (Fr.j, 174 
rummage, 188 
runagate, 93 

, sad, 147 
so hide, sallet, 191 
I sanctimonious, 143 
i Sayw'ell, 154 
I scaremonger, 1 9 
Scattergood, 154 
j scryer, 147 
; sententious, 145 
sentry, 192 
Shaddock, 206 
Shackshaft, 206 
Shakelance, 206 
Shakeshaft, 206 
Shakespeare, 153, 206 
shrew-mouse, 153 
sick, 29 
signal, 147 
silly, 146 
Skeat, 100, 143 
Skupshchina, 98 
slave, 92, n. i 
sleight, 165 
slogan, 95 
slug-horn, 97 
sly, 145, 165 
Sobranje, 98 
sooth, 1 17 
Soviet, 97 
spade a spade, 8r 
sparrow-grass, n6 
spick-and-span, 98 
spiessbiirger (Ger.), 79 
spirit away, 65 
squire, 118, 
stale, 146 
stanieh 164 
staunch, 146 
stiletto, 127 
stor(e)y, 100 
strap, 183 
strop, 184 
stun, 1 01 
Suffolk punch, 86 
suggestive, 145 

tabler, 33 
Taillefer, 204 


213 



INDEX 


Tallboys, 204 

tare, 197 

Telfer, 204 

tenter-hooks, 194 

tester, 197 

thrash, 187, n. 

threshold, 187, n, 

tick, 37, n, 2 

toady, 66 

toff, 66, n. 2 

toil, 92 

trance, 200 

travail, 93 

travel, 93 

tremble (Fr.), 2 

Trench, 6, 54, 73, 188 

trencherman, 1 19 

trepan, 64 

tret, 197 

trivial, 17 

trounce, 198 

trove, 147 

trudge, 201 

truncheon, 149 

truss, 202 

tsar, 63 

tsaritsa, 63 

tuft-hunter, 93 

tul2de (Sc.), 93 

turkey, 160 

Turnbull, 204 

turnpike, 103 

un», 29 
Unready, 58 
unsavoury, 28 
unwell, 30 
uproar, 105 

vamp, 1 13 
vampire, 113 
vedette, 194 
vellum, 1 81 
venom, 18 x 


very, 131 

1 villain, 22 

I vlei, vley (S. Afr.), 152 

I volkslied (Ger.), 34 

t 

Waghorn, 208 
Wagstaffe, 207 
Wagtail, 208 
wahnsinn (Ger.), 107 
Walklatc, 154 
wanchancy, 107 
wanhope, 108 
wanton, 106 
warden, 176 
warmonger, 19 
wassail, 108 
weal, 149 
wealh, 92, n. i 
wealth, 149 
wear, 203 
weep, 148 
weird, 1 1 1 
Welsh rabbit, 42 
wergild, 1 1 4, n 2 
werwolf, II 3 
whistle, 84 
whole, 109 
will o’ the wisp, 46 
wiseacre, 116 
withstand, 107, n. i 
wondrou:, 113, n. i 
Wood, 3, n. 2 
worth, X12 
wreak, 40 
wretch, 40 

yawl, 162 
yeoman, 118 
yon, 120 
yond, 1 21 
Younghusband, 55 

zany, 166 


214 






UNIVERS 

LIBRARY